The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is currently set to run until the end of April 2021 and is no doubt providing a lifeline to businesses of all sizes, and their employees.
Sadly, some employers will soon have to decide if they are going to have to make changes to restructure their workforce over the coming months so that they will be best positioned to survive profitably in the long term when the support ends. Small employers may find themselves having to make long-serving employees, high performers, friends, or family members redundant if they are to save their business.
Making redundancies is always difficult
Making redundancies is always difficult, but the external environment of 2021 will make this an even more challenging conversation to have and to receive. It will be important for employers, whose decisions will affect not only those who leave but also those who are retained, that they are seen to have acted fairly and compassionately and to have treated people with kindness and respect. Employers may also be able to offer external specialist support – whether that is access to an Employee Assistance team who might be able to help with financial, mental health or family issues, or to outplacement services for individual advice on CV preparation and finding a new job in the digital world.
Always follow a proper redundancy process
Redundancy can, of course, be a fair reason for dismissal, but despite the pandemic, employers must always follow a proper process, including a consultation process that might have a legal minimum timeframe and a requirement to consult both individually and collectively. With the unique and complex challenges that employers will already be dealing with, they might find that they don’t have the time, or the knowledge necessary to manage the complexities of a redundancy exercise that may have to be handled remotely, particularly if they don’t have a separate HR team or if their HR resource is already stretched.
Use an independent HR professional with redundancy knowledge, experience and sensitivity
At such times, employers may benefit from the temporary use of a third-party HR professional who will be able to use their knowledge and experience to independently, and sensitively, lead both the employer and employee through each stage of a restructuring process – from identifying the selection criteria and pool to helping the employer clarify and articulate their rationale to organising and accurately documenting consultations and outcomes. Employers might also feel that they are better able to maintain positive relationships with their employees both during and after a redundancy exercise if they are seen to be using external support to ensure an impartial and professionally managed approach is being taken.
If you are an SME who would like support with redundancies or a restructure, please get in touch with our HR Services team at HR@ifteam.co.uk.