Dealing with redundancy

Losing your job can be a painful business at the best of times.

It’s up there with divorce and bereavement as one of life’s biggest causes of stress, and at its worst it’s an experience that can leave you feeling bitter, demoralised and depressed. Redundancies tend to come about after a long period where the company is in trouble, profits are falling and senior management are worried. This is exactly the kind of situation where staff already feel unsettled. Rumours abound. Morale is low. Backstabbing is by no means unheard of.

Yet in all that panic and uncertainty the actual news that you’re for the chop might actually come as something of a relief.

In fact, many people find that ultimately redundancy acts as a spur, pushing them on to something bigger and better, such as a radical change of career or starting their own business. After all, even if you enjoyed your job, there were probably areas you weren’t so keen on – talents you have that were unused, ambitions that went unfulfilled. Take some time out, to do a bit of thinking, and have a look at our Reviewing your career options page.

In most cases, employers making staff redundant are obliged to give notice of a month or more, so use that time to look at your options. Ask if you can be put onto the redeployment list if you want to remain with your employer in a different role. In many places redeployment conditions mean that you will be guaranteed an interview for any job which you are qualified for. Many employers will offer sessions with a careers counsellor, who will be able to help rebuild your career from the bottom up. It could well be that your experience of being made redundant is so painful that you’ll want a complete change of career. But before you enrol on that juggling course, think carefully. For many people who are dissatisfied with their jobs, just a small change to their condition is all it takes to revitalise their interest in work, whether it’s cutting back on hours, relocating, or simply working with a different group of people.

Many people find it helpful to compare the career paths of others. So why not check out Once a physicist – a series of case studies that profiles physicists who have made some fascinating career moves?

Self-esteem
Restoring your battered sense of self-worth is another big issue for most people who’ve been made redundant. The number-one thing to remember is that redundancies are about the position, not the person. If you’re feeling demoralised, remind yourself of your successes and the times you felt appreciated. Indestructable Self-Belief by Fiona Harrold (published by Piatkus) is a good source of inspiration. Sit down with a trusted friend and talk about your strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities out there. It might be you want to retrain for another career, or go back to postgraduate study.

Practical matters

Redundancy can open up enormous questions about you, your life and your career. But you also need to keep an eye on bread-and-butter legal and financial issues. Check that your employer has done everything they should have. There are strict rules governing redundancies and if your employer hasn’t followed them, you could have grounds for appealing their decision to make you redundant and, potentially, even recourse to an employment tribunal. If you suspect discrimination on the grounds of sex, age or race, for example, you could have a case against your employer – go to your nearest Job Centre plus or phone ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) 08457 474 747 for more details.

Having decided to make you redundant, your employer should make an effort to find you an alternative role within their organisation. Also, they should consult with you at least 30 days beforehand if you are one of at least 20 people being made redundant and at least 90 days before if 100 employees or more are being made redundant.

Plus you should be entitled to some form of notice pay or redundancy pay. By law, anyone who’s been working for an employer for more than two years should be entitled to statutory redundancy pay ranging from half-a-week to a week-and-a-half’s pay for every year they’ve worked, depending on their age and subject to statutory limits. Check out the ready reckoner on the DirectGov website to see your statutory entitlement. 

Bear in mind that some employers may offer more generous settlements than this – a month for every year of employment is not uncommon, and redundancy payments of up to £30,000 should be tax-free.

Unless you’ve put in some serious time at your ex-job, it’s unlikely you’ll be in the position to plan out a year-long cruise around the world, so your next move should be to sort out your finances. You could put your redundancy payment into a deposit account; the money pages of the Sunday papers carry details of which accounts pay best at any one time. Once unemployed, you may be entitled to Job Seeker’s Allowance (so long as you have less than a designated amount) plus help with housing costs and council tax. Go to your nearest Job Centre to find out more and check whether you’ve got any insurance against loss of income, or payment protection on any debts, as this could assist.

Back in business
Next come more practical steps such as reviewing your CV, exploring your network of professional contacts and applying for jobs. Undoubtedly there will be set-backs, but don’t take them personally. Redundancy is a painful business, but with the right attitude you can come back stronger than ever.

last edited: July 31, 2014