The sudden threat to public health from coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought about global change that most employers have never encountered before.

We are past the peak of the virus in the UK and society has been permitted to re-open safely in stages, but there are going to be more changes to come. The economic impact of coronavirus has meant that many employers are going to need to consider essential changes to their business, which will require people management support.

Along with the health and safety requirements from a COVID-Secure risk assessment, other changes may include continuation of furlough, recruitment freezes, changes to job descriptions, a reduction in working hours, or at last resort, redundancies. All of these require careful consideration and planning.

If you have considered the alternatives and feel that redundancies are the only option for your business, it is vital to understand the correct procedure. Not just because there are legal checkboxes, but because livelihoods and mental health are at stake.

Addressing redundancy guilt

Although the redundancy process is sometimes necessary and entirely functional, it can provoke an emotional response. It can bring on feelings similar to that of grief, impacting the mental health and well-being of both those being made redundant and the managers who have to manage the process.

Those selected for redundancy can suffer feelings of despair, shame and guilt. These can greatly impact their ability to successfully seek new employment. All at a time that is already challenging.

Employers have a duty of care to provide support to those being made redundant and should want to see their people make positive next steps. Mass unemployment is not just a problem for the unemployed but damaging for society too.

The redundancy process can also affect the wider workforce if it is managed poorly. Survivor syndrome can strike those who were chosen to remain, as can feelings of anxiety that they too could lose their jobs in the future.

The situation must be handled with care and positioned in a way that can encourage a positive outcome for everyone, as well as meeting the needs of the business.

Redundancies during coronavirus

The process of redundancy has not changed because of coronavirus, but there are some important points to consider. Especially for employers who are claiming for furloughed employees through the job retention scheme.

The scheme is due to end on 31 October and employer contributions are increasing from August. Employers planning to make furloughed staff redundant should factor this date in for consultation and notice periods.

There are also new logistics of carrying out redundancies whilst employees are working from home. If the employee has the right to be accompanied, this should still happen if the consultation is by video conference.

Human connection can be difficult over video, but empathy is essential and special care should be taken for anyone who is living alone.

Starting a new chapter

For some people, unexpected change can be difficult to embrace. But given the right guidance and encouragement, it can end up being an open door to new and prosperous opportunities.

Many people have gone on to achieve personal growth and great success after unexpectedly becoming unemployed. Steve Jobs found himself to be dismissed from Apple, a company that he co-founded, only to be reinstated years later to help revolutionise the brand.

Oprah Winfrey was once told she was “unfit for television news” but went on to become a billionaire media personality and businesswoman.

With redundancies being a difficult but necessary result of the current crisis, there is a need for motivational success stories that can help people to realise their full potential.

If you are considering redundancies in your business but want to make sure your process is fair, legal and productive, get in touch with The HR Dept. In addition to supporting you through the process, we have a dedicated outplacement service that can provide positive progression for departing employees, and tips to motivate those who stay.


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