With restructuring taking place all over the UK and shared by the media every week, being at risk of redundancy has sadly become a standard feature of modern day careers. No matter whichever research stats you read, the uncertainty that accompanies restructuring and redundancy consistently rates as one of the most stressful experiences you can go through and the experience is right up there with divorce, moving house, and bereavement.
Multi-award-winning career development coach Carolyn Parry, founder of Career Alchemy and one of the UK’s top career coaches, shares ten top tips she teaches to clients which will help anyone affected to minimise the stress of the situation by taking appropriate action.
1. Consider Voluntary Severance
Normally employers who are intending to go through a major restructuring activity will pre-empt this by opening up a voluntary severance scheme first. If you have been thinking about moving on for a while, this provides a golden opportunity to benefit from a fresh start somewhere else and a chance to get a decent lump sum too.. Be aware that just because you apply, management may not agree to your application. If you do apply and secure another role elsewhere, don’t advertise the fact before they agree to your VS request – it won’t be in their interests to agree.
2. Know your rights
Employers are legally bound to follow certain specific processes and procedures in a redundancy situation. Make sure you are informed about what they must do and what your rights are. The Government’s website contains some useful pages on redundancy which sets this information out clearly and provides additional links to other related and helpful articles.
3. Review your finances
Inevitably the fear of losing salary can send anyone into a tailspin, so now’s the moment to take stock of your finances if you haven’t done so recently. Make sure you look at the various insurance policies you have taken out, these may include some form of income protection or access to legal advice which you may need. The Money Advice Service’s website has lots of good information and advice on what to do if you are facing redundancy. It’s also worth reading the advice on Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert’s website too.
Understanding where you are financially will ensure that you are in the best position possible to make some informed choices as your work situation becomes clearer. It would be remiss of me as a trustee Director of my local branch not to suggest that you explore the fantastic free services and support that Citizens Advice offer clients as well, particularly when it comes to reducing costs and negotiating debt repayments on your behalf should things get tight.
4. Recognise that redundancy isn’t (normally) personal
As someone who went through a restructuring myself a few years ago and having worked with almost 500 people at risk in the last couple of years, I know that this statement can sometimes be hard to swallow. There is no escaping that redundancy feels personal because our job forms part of our identity. It’s also fair to say that, in some instances, redundancy just isn’t fair and can wrongly be the result of the actions of a vindictive or prejudiced manager.
The vast majority of the time, however, as most senior reputable leaders worth their weight will tell you, restructuring which involves redundancies is usually an option of last resort and is a really unpleasant necessity to ensure the organisation can continue to survive.
Recognising that it isn’t personal will help you get through the process with less stress. Telling people that their livelihoods are at risk isn’t easy and often has an effect on your manager too. Most managers are decent individuals who have often met your significant other so really understand the potential impact that redundancy would cause you and your loved ones. Showing some empathy and compassion for those who may be having to take you through redundancy process is a good approach both as a fellow member of the human race and as an employer, and it benefits both of you, particularly if you will have to rely on your manager for a good reference in the future.
5. Consider using the consultation opportunity to appeal
Under the current rules, all employers have to offer a consultation to staff at risk of redundancy and the procedures for this vary according to the number of posts at risk so check out the process in your organisation which should be published on your HR department's webpages.
The senior management team in your organisation may not be fully aware of the value of your post to the organisation. So, consultation provides the perfect opportunity to explain why the organisation needs to think again about its plans to lose specific posts. Doing so is sometimes a judgement call and depends on the situation the organisation is in and, frankly, its management culture and you are the person who is best placed to understand if doing so would be a waste of time or not.
If you can, put a joint appeal in with others at risk, if this makes sense to do so. Regardless of whether you put an appeal in on your own or with others, make sure you stress the value that each post adds by showing hard financial evidence of success and what would be lost if the post(s) were lost. Focus on logic and tangible aspects such as revenue streams, reputational damage and proven commercial opportunities which would be lost without the work you do and which are hard for an employer to dispute. You may be able to come up with a more creative solution which you could share with management to help them save money more effectively that the approach they have taken themselves so far.
This is also the time to explore whether there is an option to reduce your working hours or take a pay cut to save your post, if this is possible and you are happy to do so. Remember too that sometimes there is room to negotiate your redundancy package (and you should always check that it has been correctly calculated as mistakes can happen).
6. Explore other roles internally
If the idea of reduced hours/salary doesn’t work, then there is another option. Once you have been placed at risk of redundancy, employers are required to consider you for redeployment into other suitable opportunities within the organisation and offer some form of trial in the new role to give you time to adapt to it. Employers sometimes refer to this option as Prior Consideration which usually means as a candidate that you will get advance notice and time to apply before others not at risk. It also means that normally you will automatically be interviewed if your application meets the requirements of the role or could do so with appropriate training. Be aware that if more than one person who is at risk applies, the process will be competitive and if your application is unsuccessful, you can still stay on the at risk database until your notice expires which means you have other chances to apply successfully. Make sure you ask for feedback if your application isn’t successful so you can learn what you need to change. Good HR teams are normally very happy to provide this.
Assuming that you are successful, while the new role may not be what you want to do for the long term, it does give you the opportunity to develop new skills and buys you some breathing space to regroup and apply elsewhere.
7. Use your right to time off to go for external roles
Currently, if you have been employed for two years or more continuously, then you are entitled to reasonable time off during the redundancy notice period to look for a new job or sort out training courses. This time is usually a maximum of 40% of a week’s pay for time taken off during the entire notice period so use your time wisely. Doing so will mean you won’t have to use valuable annual leave which you may need later for interviews or want to turn into salary if your employer agrees.
8. Update your CV and tap into your network
It’s fair to say that most jobs still don’t get advertised but are filled through word of mouth, so it makes sense to consider who you know in your sector or locality who might have job opportunities coming up with them or people they know. Given the number of redundancies these days, the stigma attached to it is largely a thing of the past and they will probably have heard about your organisational restructure through their subscription to the grapevine anyway.
Before you call them, do your research and use what you learn to tailor your CV so that what you have to offer looks like it tells your story well in their context and fits their direction of travel at first glance.
9. Look at this as an opportunity to change direction
Because of the focus on skills and the fluidity in the job market, it is easier to change direction. In my own case for instance, I changed direction at the age of 39 from being a sales and marketing director of a publishing company to a trainee university careers advisor. While that may seem like a big leap, both roles had many skills in common: building rapport, being able to read people, listening, effective use of questions, analysis, intuition, presentation skills etc. That provided the ideal platform from which to build and learn the context and theories of my new role and led to a much more fulfilling career than I had been in previously.
One note of caution: if you are thinking of changing direction there is sometimes quite a big salary implication (often downwards) so check that out and consider working with a top-quality career development coach or adviser before you decide.
Often, organisations offer early retirement packages for individuals aged 55 and up which may well enable you to have the finances to support a change of direction or career downscaling if you feel the call to do something more interesting or meaningful than your current work allows..
10. Be kind to yourself
Being at risk of restructuring is emotionally draining so you need to practice some self-care. Read my blog post on how to stay positive for some advice on how to look after yourself and stay sane as you go through the process.
Finally, if it has been a while since you last applied for a job anywhere, make sure you hone your application and interview skills whether you decide to go for redeployment opportunities or to apply elsewhere. In the last year alone, Career Alchemy has helped almost 500 professionals do just that, enabling them to navigate their way to a brighter future for them and their loved ones and we can help you do the same too.
Because I want to provide support to many more people that the logistics of face to face workshops allow, I am running a number of live online Facing Job Uncertainty webinars that take place after work, are affordable and which you can join from the comfort of your own home.
While this article was written in good faith and we believe the employment advice given on this page is accurate at the time of publication, readers are advised to check for accuracy with their own specific individual circumstances with their employer’s HR team.
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Designed for professionals, the Career Alchemy blog mixes news, career trends and philosophy with "how to" advice to help you achieve happiness and success in your working life, no matter how much the world of work is changing.