The months ahead are likely to be testing ones for many employers and their employees. With the furlough scheme drawing to a close but no end in sight for the pandemic, many companies and their teams will be faced with difficult choices, with the reality of redundancies and restructures set to impact across many sectors.
There will be uncertainty and countless questions asked on both sides of the employer-employee relationship in an environment where it often feels as if there are no good answers. What should unite all parties affected by redundancy should be a desire to remain as constructive and professional as possible.
While it can be a difficult and uncomfortable process to negotiate, the aim is to conduct it in a way that respects and supports the employee while mitigating risk for the business. In part one of this two-part article we consider some points for employers to keep in mind throughout this process on the planning, principles and people involved.
Plan and think through the process thoroughly
We are living through uncertain and volatile times but where change is inevitable businesses can and should plan well in advance for what is coming. Where the relationship between an employer and their employee is ending, careful thought and planning are key to making this process as smooth and as painless as possible for both parties.
Establish firm and fair principles
Following fair, transparent and legally compliant processes for pursuing redundancies or restructures and applying them consistently and without discrimination is the best way to keep discussions constructive. Focus on positive solutions and don’t lose sight of an amicable conclusion. Losing their job can be traumatic for the individual and many employers are deeply upset about the prospect of letting staff go and want to make sure they do their very best by their employees. Following a fair and open process based on firm principles can go a long way towards achieving that.
Communicate clearly and regularly
Being open and accessible with staff on the situation facing them and the business is key in retaining their trust, both those who may be leaving the business and those who will be retained going forward. The sooner the workforce understands the situation, and how the company is proposing to address the issues, the better it will be for everyone involved. Through communication and meaningful consultation with employees, creative and viable solutions can sometimes be uncovered that the employer may not have considered as part of the original redundancy business case.
Remember, it’s all about people
For businesses under economic and financial pressure at this time it can be understandable that their focus is on the bottom line. However, when this translates to needing to let employees go from their roles, it’s important to remember that this process is about people. The important legal and procedural stipulations are in place to support and respect the individuals at the heart of the process.
Protecting the business
A professional approach to dealing with the people involved is also the best way to ensure the business is protected throughout the process and afterwards. Conducting a redundancy round making sure all the legal and employment issues are covered correctly will help avoid claims from employees or complications in future. Employers have a duty to mitigate risk to their business, for its continued survival and in the interests of its retained or future employees.
There is also a significant reputational risk for businesses whose redundancy processes do not make the welfare of their employees prominent throughout. A disgruntled former employee can be damaging for any company but this is a situation that can be avoided with due care, planning and by adhering to the right principles.
The remainder of 2020 is likely to be challenging for many businesses and their teams. Keeping the above points in mind can help make any difficult employment decisions as constructive and amicable as they can be while allowing your business to adapt to the unprecedented economic environment.
In part two of this article, we consider how important and valuable it is for both employers and employees to have knowledge of all the options open to them when faced with the possibility of redundancies.
If you are an employer or an employee who would benefit from some advice and support on any of the above issues, please get in touch.