Coping With Redundancy
Created | Updated May 11, 2008
Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let's love turbulence and use it for change.
– Ramsay Clark
In some companies redundancy is one of the risks of the job and a periodic scythe sweeps through those that are surplus to requirements. It can feel alternately devastating and liberating. On the one hand it's horrible that there are going to be cuts and you've been chosen to go over someone else, because your skills do not seem to fit in with the 'overall strategy'. On the other, bugger it, you fancy a change in direction anyway and, besides, you could go travelling with all the redundancy money, or get a boob job, or buy a sporty little soft-top. Suddenly, losing your job doesn't seem such a bad idea, after all. You can turn it into a very positive experience.
But the fact remains, being made redundant from your job can be both harrowing and difficult, but it can also provide the impetus you need to finally steer your boat in a new and brighter direction. Whatever it is, it's a major change, and one which we need to deal with as best as we possibly can. This is what you, the Community, had to say on the matter...
Dealing with the Initial News
Obviously, you should do what's right for you, but some good suggestions are:
Do not react emotionally while on the premises. If necesssary, leave the premises immediately, and don't feel the need to give an explanation, either - what are they going to do, fire you again? If you want to howl, scream, swear, call the company and management names, save it till you're at home.
Go straight to the pub with colleagues who are also being made redundant and stay there till closing time.
Don't be tempted to do anything in retaliation - if it comes to an industrial tribunal, you don't want to be in court being described as a disgruntled ex-employee at any point. Plus you might be able to use contacts in the company to help you find a new job. It isn't unheard of for companies to re-hire redundant staff when they have weathered their current financial problems, so don't burn any bridges. Maintain your dignity and professionalism right to the end.
If You Have to/Want to Leave Straightaway
It is not unknown for people to be asked to leave immediately, or to be offered pay in lieu of notice. So:
After the announcement, go back to your desk, log out of the computer, preferably with someone you trust watching. Clean out your desk. Take only what belongs to you. Leave stationery, pens, paper clips, and so on as they are. Say your goodbyes and leave quietly. As for turning over unfinished business to a trusted colleague, let them figure that out for themselves. Redundancy means 'we do not require your services any more'. Take that literally.
If somebody asks you to stay and you'd prefer sooner rather than later, point out that if you are redundant, then by definition your presence is not required. If it is required, you're not redundant. Point out also that since you are no longer required to be loyal to the company, you do not feel it ethical to come onto the premises. Hint at possible dark deeds. Make them pay you to stay away.
Make the person who has made you redundant feel uncomfortable: go up to them and shake their hand. Tell them its been a pleasure working for them and wish them, and the department well.
Request an exit interview and take the opportunity to say all the things you've always wanted to about rubbish managers, or really compliment those of your colleagues that remain; they'll need friends on the inside.
Using the Time you Have Left Constructively
The 'responsible' thing to do is to write a shedful of handover notes. They need to be at once concise and comprehensive. It is a skill and art. But ensure you leave some crucial elements out, just so they realise how indispensable you were. This way, you show yourself to be professional to the last, an asset that will surely be missed.
Alternatively, and less sensibly but much more satisfying, use your time at work looking for another job. Those who sacked you should expect that sort of behaviour. Write and distribute your CV. Get surfing on employment websites, find some employment agencies and get on their books. Use all the facilities at work that you don't have at home. Make sure that you have contact numbers for as many colleagues as possible, preferably not work numbers, and make them a useful network of contacts for the future.
What the Law Can Do for You
It's a complex area, so the best thing you can do is to consult the various websites, a union, citzen's advice bureau or anyone who has been through a similar experience. There are many websites offering free advice on UK redundancy law (and other employment law too). Get out there and use them. Two good starting points are:
www.dti.gov.uk/ - the Department of Trade and Industry which has many advice leaflets for employers and employees on redundancy consultation, procedures, rights, a week's pay (a week's pay is surprisingly difficult to define and is key when calculating notice pay, holiday pay and redundancy pay!) etc. They have a section for employees and one for employers.
www.acas.org.uk/ - the Advisory, Concilliation and Arbitration Service. This organisation has much of the same information as the DTI but sometimes in a different form.
The Redundancy Process
As soon as you get wind of the fact that there might be some redundancies, get yourself in a union. Go and speak to a local representative or the regional officer immediately. They may be aware of the redundancies and be actively involved or they may not. Even if your employer does not recognise unions it does not matter. The union can still act on your behalf. If you are not in a union see a solicitor (this will cost money after an initial free half hour) or, better still the local Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also speak to ACAS who will have a regional office. Also:
Do not sign anything until it has been checked by a union or an employment law solicitor. Especially, never, ever sign a document that has the effect of waiving your right to remedy in the employment tribunal. Keep copies of all of your correspondence, and notes from meetings.
Be aware of time limits. Too many ex-employees lose the right to a hearing in the tribunal because they miss the limitation date - three months from the effective date of redundancy. You can get the form IT1 even if you don't use it but it is better to let your representative do this for you.
The legislation governing redundancy sets out minimum standards, notice, pay etc. If your employer is offering better than this, you should accept it as long as you follow the other points above.
Do not accept the first offer that you are given and don't let them railroad you. Own the timetable. If they desperately need to get rid of you they will up the money to get it through.
Be professional. Work your notice with dignity. Don't give them an excuse to get rid of you on their terms.
Make sure that your employer has a fair selection procedure for choosing who will be made redundant. If you have any reason for suspecting that you have been discriminated against in the selection procedure (sexual, racial, etc), consult your trade union or a solicitor specialising in employment law immediately. The same applies if you suspect that you have been selected for personal reasons, eg a bad relationship with your line manager. The employer has a legal obligation to show that their selection procedure was fair.
The employer must also consult in advance with employee(s) who they intend to make redundant, and/or their representatives. This is also a legal obligation and procedures vary according to the number of employee(s) to be made redundant. The employer must consider offering the employee alternative work under similar terms and conditions if it is available.
If it appears that your employer may not have complied with all the legal requirements for making you redundant, you may have a case for wrongful dismissal or unfair dismissal, which could lead to you being awarded a higher compensation payment than the redundancy payment on offer, if proved before an employment tribunal.
Your employer may ask you to sign a so-called 'compromise agreement' which essentially says 'We (the employer) agree to pay out your redundancy money ASAP if you promise not to pursue any claims against us.' Do not sign a 'compromise agreement' before consulting your union or solicitor. By refusing to sign, you keep your options open and this may lead to an improved offer from your employer.
In general, your contract will define your entitlements. The law should overide your contract. In England, a minimum period of notice is governed by the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act, 1978 (EPCA), and you are protected from unfair dismissal by the EPCA and the Employment Acts (1980 and 1982).
- Length of service less than four weeks - no notice required.
- Length of service more than four weeks but less than two years - one week's notice.
- Length of service more than two years but less than three years - two weeks' notice.
- Length of service more than three years but less than four years - three weeks' notice.
And so on up to
- Length of service more than 12 years - 12 weeks' notice.
If your job is re-advertised two months later, you almost certainly have a claim for unfair dismissal. An employer can't make an individual employee redundant as such - they can only make their job redundant, eg 'We do not need a widget-maker any more so Mr Jones will have to go.' Re-advertising the same job shortly afterwards is a strong indication that you were moved out of the company under the guise of redundancy. If you are made redundant make sure you get a written explanation stating that your position is surplus to requirements, then if it is re-advertised up to three months later, consult a solicitor specialising in employment law.
If you are even considering taking your employer to an employment tribunal, don't waste time. There is a time limit of three months for bringing claims and you will need time to prepare your case. If you think that your being made redundant is unfair and possibly illegal, you should, first of all, write a clear letter to the firm noting your concerns and seeking clarification of the reasons for/circumstances of your dismissal. Under English law, the firm will (generally) have a legal obligation to respond within 14 days. Failure of the employer to respond should prompt you to complain to an industrial tribunal. When in doubt, consult a solicitor specialising in employment law - it nearly always saves you money in the long term. Many will take on these cases on a 'no win - no fee' basis.
Spending Your Redundancy Money Wisely
If you're thinking about setting up your own business, you can use the money to buy the things you'll need like a car and a computer. Otherwise, spend five per cent of it immediately on a treat for yourself. Spend as much as you need to sort yourself out with interview clothes. Put the rest in a building society account, preferably one of those that requires notice of withdrawals and save it for emergencies.
Looking for Another Job
Looking for another job can be quite demanding on your time, as it involves searching for jobs, writing covering letters, doing your research before interviews, following up on old contacts and meeting people. Make your research focussed. Recruitment agencies and websites will send you emails for totally inappropriate jobs, so you are best advised to do a websearch yourself. It's not a bad idea to be disciplined about the process. Set a regular time aside for job searching every day.
In addition, make sure you do activities other than looking for a job. Do activities which are not so easy to do when you're working. Take your children out of nursery and spend the day with them. Kids are great to be around during a time such as this. Go cycling, or for long walks. Take the chance while you have it.
Explaining Your Redundancy to Your Next Employer
Redundancy is a relatively commonplace experience these days and it doesn't hold anything like the stigma it used to have. Tell the truth - there was a round of redundancies and your role was one of those selected but add that you're glad of the chance to pursue other interests/challenges/roles while emphasising how much you learned from your previous employer.
This assumes you really were made redundant and not sacked for embezzlement or shagging the boss's wife in the car park...
Rebuilding Your Self-confidence
You are not redundant. The job you were doing is redundant. This is the single most important thing to realise. Even if you are being made redundant because your boss hates you, at the end of the day it must be because there is no longer a role for someone with your skills. Ultimately, although bosses can make it seem personal, companies don't honestly care. It's not you they're getting rid of, it's your job. So being 'just a number' is in this case a positive thing. Someone else may be crying out for your skills set even as your current company doesn't need them any more.
Try to keep busy - the temptation to lie in bed and wallow in misery is very strong, but after indulging in it for a little while, get out and do something. Anything to get you up and about - walk somewhere, visit people, get to the gym, anything. You could set yourself a project (maybe finish that DIY task you haven't got around to or something) and work at it. Do voluntary work. Having someone thank you for helping them, having them tell you that you've done something good for them, will give your confidence and sense of usefulness a massive boost. It really helps you to feel useful and effective to be able to do something positive.
Look at it philosophically. Redundancy is not the worst moment in your life - try divorce or death of a loved one... It should be seen as a chance to move on, clear the decks and do something else. Forget the self-esteem 'they don't want me' idea; their loss is your gain. Find something else and do it, even if its less money/kudos or satisfaction, and do it. You could be bitter, but try to stay positive, adopting the attitude that life throws things like this up every so often, and that something better might be just around the corner. Looking towards the future and not back into the past will help a lot.
How Friends and Family Can Help
Here's the scenario.
I was made redundant from my first real post-university job just before Christmas 2001. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that at the time it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. My self-esteem plummetted and I felt utterly useless. I was also pretty young (27) and felt that was stupidly early to be cast onto the scrapheap. What a failure.
Talking to people here helped me get a bit of perspective. A wise girl helped me to see that much of my unhappiness was grief - grief for the expected and planned-for future that had been taken away. I had to allow myself to go through the grieving process and not be too hard on myself for feeling that way.
So, how can you help as a family member or friend?
- By becoming saints with endless patience.
- By staying positive and not blaming you.
- By realising that unhappy moods and niggly behaviour is not aimed at you, it is an expression of the newly-redundant person's unhappiness and frustration.
- By suggesting anything they can think of which may help, no matter how silly or apparently unconnected, but not pushing it.
- By not nagging.
- By not judging.
- By not being over-sympathetic.
You can really have a positive effect on someone...
I was lucky - my partner was incredibly understanding, supportive and close when I was made redundant. That in itself was a massive boost to my self-esteem, having her.
Finding Something Else to Do
I needed some distance and to get my balance back and I suddenly found myself in a position to take some time out with a little bit of money in my pocket - I finally had the opportunity to travel a little. All through school and uni I worked in the holidays to afford the books/rent/etc (and beer, I admit it) for my studies and for the first time I was really free to do whatever I wanted. Obviously things would have been different if I had a family to support but I could afford to be a bit selfish for once. I took off for a month and started job-hunting when I returned. I was lucky and found employment quickly - although I had plans in place for what to do if the search took a long time... Looking back the effect of my redundancy was a positive one, but it was devastating at the time.
In the short term, don't lose your home, your partner or your marbles. Deciding what to do next might depend on your age and ambition. You may love your chosen career and your next career move is simple: find something doing the same thing in a different company. It might not occur to you to do anything else. However, you can use being made redundant as an opportunity to go back into education or retrain to do something else. The book What Colour is My Parachute describes a structured way of thinking about your career and future. Here's one Researcher's story of a change in direction:
For some time after I lost my old job, I wallowed in booze-fuelled depression. I had a drink problem long before I lost the job, largely as a result of the stresses of my former employment, and I spent many of the newly-empty hours in pubs.
Then I started doing some creative writing, on h2g2 and elsewhere. I indulged a hitherto latent love of the arts that I'd never had time for whilst in my old job. Money wasn't too much of a barrier: the public library was free to use, so were some nearby art galleries, and my local cinemas offered cheap admission for the unemployed. I kicked the booze habit and started going to a gym and swimming, again taking advantage of reduced prices for the unwaged. I discovered that my local university's drama society ran free acting classes. Within a year I was on stage performing some Shakespeare with them.
I'd made a vital discovery. I'd realised that I didn't have to define myself exclusively by who was or was not paying me money. That can be a difficult idea to accept, because we live in a culture that does often define people that way. If someone asks you 'What do you do?', what they usually really mean is 'What do you do that you get paid for?'. But I stopped feeling like a useless, discarded thing and started feeling like a writer and an actor. Thanks to the gym and the swimming, I also began to feel like an increasingly healthy human being.
Now I am an employee again, working in administration for a theatre company. Unfortunately, it's a short-term engagement, and I may soon rejoin the unemployment statistics. But I know that if that happens, this time I won't panic or hit the booze, because I'll still have my writing, my acting, my health and my self-esteem.
I now know that you don't cease to exist when they delete your name from the payroll.