One of the most sensitive responsibilities that HR has is to manage the handling of redundancy situations. This is compounded when economic times are difficult and, while there are some indications of recovery throughout 2021, the Office for National Statistics reported in February 2021 that the unemployment rate is 5.1% - 1.3 percentage points higher than the previous year.
The great unknown is how jobs security will be affected when the furlough scheme comes to an end. Redundancy is still a big risk for those in employment and the goal of HR practitioners will be to manage the redundancy programmes as carefully and as thoroughly as they can.
So what are the key factors facing HR Managers in managing redundancies in 2021?
While furlough hasn't changed the rules around redundancy, it has made managing redundancy more impersonal. If someone is on furlough and is placed within a redundancy pool, they will need to be consulted remotely.
It's also worth giving extra thought to how employees are selected for redundancy. There is no suggestion that it is fair that those on furlough should be prioritised for redundancy, and HR's task will be to examine the original reasons why, for example, some people were put on furlough while others were not.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development advises organisations to adhere to the full redundancy requirements and to ensure that alternatives to redundancy are considered and not rejected out of hand.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 54% of the UK adult population had felt anxious in the middle two weeks of December 2020. Those surveyed also reported feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and frustration. While the vaccine rollout has made positive news over the last two months, there's no doubt that workers are feeling more fragile and less able to cope with major issues such as losing their jobs.
Good practice has always meant that employers should offer support to staff who are at risk of redundancy such as allowing time off for job hunting activities and helping people to update their CVs. During Covid-19, it may be wise to step up those supportive activities further by:
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Managing redundancy programmes can be emotionally draining, technically demanding and complex. However, an HR practitioner who can give the message that they are available to answer questions and explain things will be valuable as the company goes through each stage.
While empathy is important, it's just as vital to be upfront and honest about the situation. Sugarcoating the risks of redundancy can do just as much damage as being too abrupt and uncaring about the potential job losses. Sticking to the facts and explaining the redundancy procedure in detail will help staff to understand and process what will happen next.
Overall, communication is the key to managing a fair and thorough redundancy procedure. News always spreads fast through companies and rumours can cause unnecessary worry and stress; being approachable and communicating often will help enormously during what is always a challenging time for all concerned.