With the government’s furlough scheme slowly being wound down, a lot of employers are thinking about their business structure and what their post-coronavirus workforce will look like. The usual rules around redundancy haven’t been changed, however, with the current restrictions in place it can make the process more disconnected.
Redundancy is a very stressful life event and it can have a lasting impact on the individual concerned. The process can cause fear, anxiety and depression. It can also be upsetting for the employer; no one wants to be forced into these situations. If making redundancies is the right decision for your practice, the process should be very carefully planned and communicated clearly, with fair selection criteria in place.
Wherever possible, these difficult conversations should be face-to-face. You can create a safe and open environment in which both sides can connect and empathise with the current situation. However, social distancing can pose logistical issues and this has pushed employers to come up with alternative options of how to communicate with their staff.
The right way
Arranging a video conference is the best option if you can’t carry out the meetings face-to-face. Being able to gauge body language enables you to respond in the appropriate way. Everybody reacts differently to receiving bad news, and it’s important that you treat every individual with dignity, respect and kindness.
The wrong way
Sending an email can be the most effective way to reduce time spent on a project; it’s quick and convenient, but very impersonal. This is a very blunt way of communicating and is most likely to cause resentment and a lot of upset amongst the team members affected. Keep in mind that redundancy is a life-changing event, which needs to be handled with empathy. Try to view the process from the employee’s perspective.
When you’re working through the process, you need to be prepared to listen to feedback and concerns from employees and clearly communicate the next steps. Regardless of an individual’s health history or durability, a redundancy process can seriously impact someone’s mental health.
The right way
If you have compassion throughout the process, this can make a huge difference to the way in which your employees manage this situation. It is advisable to have an extensive support plan in place, such as the option to talk openly to their line manager should they have questions and concerns; you should also have knowledge of external services, such as occupational health, should they request additional help for their wellbeing.
The wrong way
It’s quite easy to ignore what’s going on around us, or to disregard another person’s feelings because you aren’t affected. You need to assess how each employee has taken the news and appropriately manage this to ensure they maintain their morale – especially when looking for a new role. Don’t expect them to deal with the news on their own; you have duties as a line manager or practice owner that should not be ignored.
Redundancy is recognised as a fair reason for dismissal if the employer has a business need to do so. This doesn’t always mean that the selection criteria is fair, which can subsequently overturn the decision and award employees with an unfair dismissal claim.
It’s good practice to involve the affected department with the selection criteria. Such criteria can include skills, qualifications, knowledge of the practice, knowledge of the patients, disciplinary records and attendance (as long as the attendance criteria doesn’t discriminate against pregnant or disabled team members). Always outline vacant roles even if the role available is not suitable for the employee(s) and consider any alternative suggestions put forward.
Don’t use redundancy as an easy way to avoid having difficult conversations in relation to capability or conduct issues. This is a risky business and can leave you exposed to an unfair dismissal claim. Steer clear of making decisions based on an individual – although we’ve all worked with a difficult character, this doesn’t imply that they aren’t hard-working or highly skilled.
Seek expert advice
In the current climate redundancies are likely to be legitimate, but the procedure may still be classed as unfair if the process is not carried out correctly. It is a complex and thorough process that requires attention to detail and knowledge of employment law. Professional advisors, such as those at CODE, can help you navigate through the redundancy process fairly and properly. Not only will this help you to provide your affected staff members with the support they need, but it will also help to ensure the stress is limited for yourself.