Expert view: Redundancy can be a “golden opportunity”

February 11, 2009

Sue Tumelty is Managing Director of employment law specialists The HR Dept. The opinions expressed are her own.

The latest Labour Market Outlook survey conducted for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) with the accountancy firm KPMG looks bleak. The Ipsos Mori poll of 892 UK employers in January, reveals that more than one in three (36%) plan to cut jobs in the first quarter of 2009.

What if you are a one in three? Regardless of whether you are a high earner or in a low paid job, the chances are that you’ll face the same question. How will you pay your mortgage and bills? How will you find another job?

As with any high stress situation, panic won’t help. Try to stay calm and make an effort to understand the process and the options open to you. For example, redundancy can be expensive and difficult for employers. Many are now looking favourably on innovative ideas in an attempt to retain their talent pool. This can range from shorter working hours, to unpaid sabbaticals and temporary pay cuts.

Part of the redundancy process requires consultation. Use this as your chance to offer alternative solutions. It is worth exploring all the avenues that may enable your employer to keep you.

The process begins with the announcement of proposed redundancy. Your employers need to consult with staff as early as possible about the reasons for the proposed cuts.They have to state how many employees are at risk and how the employees would be selected.

If more than 20 people are to go, the consultation should take place over 30 days. Larger scale redundancies need over 90 days with elected representatives, such as unions.

Part of this consultation process should involve looking at ways to avoid or to mitigate the circumstances. For example, can savings be made in any other area of the business?

If redundancy seems the only option, your employer may score each employee against set selection criteria. You have the right to see and question your own score. You also have the right to be informed of any suitable alternative jobs available within your company. If you are pregnant or on maternity leave, your position enjoys additional protection.

If you are selected for redundancy, you or your representatives should be invited to a dismissal meeting and given the right to appeal. If your employer fails to follow the correct process, you may have grounds to pursue a tribunal claim.

Try not to view redundancy as a personal slight. It can be a golden opportunity to start your own business or train for a new career. Prepare your CV, read the Which? Essential guide, CV and Interview Handbook for valuable tips on how to get ahead in the employment market.

Your job now is to get a job, so get up at the normal time and get to work. Be realistic and explore all search methods including the internet, employment agencies, local papers, speculative letters and contacts.

Do a review of your finances and get advice and help if you think you may fall behind with your mortgage or utility bills. Most companies will respond favourably if you are proactive. Above all stay positive and don’t give up. The recession will end and we will all be a bit wiser because of it.

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