How to deal with the HR implications of redundancy process during the pandemic

Posted 10/06/2020 : By: Jessica Piper

With Rishi Sunak’s announcement that the Coronavirus Job Retention or ‘Furlough’ scheme is to be phased out, employers who have been using this will be thinking about their next steps.  Unfortunately, for a lot of them it will mean making redundancies.

The process for redundancies has not changed because of Coronavirus, however the way in which we interact with each other has.   It is so important that employers communicate openly and honestly with staff throughout any consultation process when informing them about the potential risk of redundancy.

Delivering the news

With social distancing in place, it will be hard to meet and consult with individuals when breaking the news of potential redundancies.  Employers should use telephone or video calls for individual meetings and when there is a group of employees to consult with use telephone conferencing or group video calls.  We would not recommend relying on work email either as employees who are furloughed will not be accessing their work email accounts.

When delivering news such as the loss of a job, it is important to be as supportive as possible to the individual.  It is already an emotional time, especially in these current times of a pandemic and delivering news of potential job losses will have an effect on employees. 

Emotions during the process

Employees will go through a curve of emotions during a redundancy consultation process which typically will be experienced in stages.  It will normally start with shock and denial, followed by anger, anxiety and/or tearfulness and finally they reach acceptance. Not all people will experience all stages, and some may stay at one stage for longer or experience the same emotions over and over.

When people are in the shock and denial stage, the information given to them may not have processed, then once the news starts to sink in, the other emotions will come along and its how you deal with these emotions that are important. 

At the start of each consultation meeting, the employer needs to be mindful of the needs of each employee, ask them how they are feeling before commencing the meeting so that they are able to deal with that person’s emotions and keep the meeting calm and productive.  Emotions affect a person’s ability to think and make decisions, so don’t expect any decisions to be made instantly.  At the end of each meeting make sure that there is someone available, such as a trusted colleague or union rep that they can talk things through and make sense of what is happening.

When the process has ended

The employees still in the business following a redundancy and still in their jobs will probably be feeling some relief.  However, there is a common problem known as survivor syndrome.  After the initial feeling of relief has left them, emotions can give way to anxiety over the future, stress leading to illness caused by the process and sometimes anger when they have seen friends and colleagues leaving because of job losses. This can lead to a lot of negative emotions if not dealt with considerately. 

Employees need time to ‘grieve’ for the loss of colleagues and to understand why they are still in the business instead of someone else.  If employees are taking on new tasks, be supportive and give training where necessary so that they can succeed in their new work. 

Keeping employees informed on the changes and expectations for the future and having regular catch up meetings will keep them engaged, don’t just think that because the process has ended that everyone is OK.  Remember that honest communication is the key, not only with those who will be leaving but those who will stay and be there to help rebuild the business.

If you need guidance on this subject, please contact us as we can provide you with practical support to help you through it. 

This information is correct at 9:30 am on 10 June 2020.

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