Covid-19 redundancy guide – Part 3: The need for compassion

My last post in this series based on the CIPD’s guidance explained the ins and outs of redundancy consultations. This instalment examines the role of compassion during a redundancy situation.

Importance of a humane approach

A redundancy situation can have a significant impact on the morale, mental health and wellbeing of both those employees who are subject to such process (whether they ultimately leave the organisation or not) and other employees in the organisation. Fears about job security and income loss have risen during the pandemic, and research indicates that many people’s mental health has been negatively impacted during this time. This is especially true of some groups, including young people and those who already had a mental health condition prior to the pandemic.

The economic climate and predicted large-scale increase in unemployment will further exacerbate some people’s concerns about finding another job. You can find more information about supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees during the coronavirus pandemic in the CIPD’s recently published guidance on this subject.

Although it may be impossible to avoid redundancies during this difficult time, it is important for every employer to approach a redundancy process with compassion and treat everyone with dignity, respect and kindness. Handling redundancy in a humane and compassionate way can make a significant difference to how people cope with the process. It will also have an impact on other employees in the organisation, who can be affected by the unsettling experience of seeing their colleagues being laid off and feeling that their own job security is at risk – sometimes referred to as “survivor syndrome”.

Regular, honest and two-way communication throughout the redundancy process is vital so that employees don’t rely on the grapevine to hear about what’s happening. Take time to explain the reasons for the redundancy and why it’s a hard business decision, and the actions that were taken to avoid redundancy and facilitate redeployment. Make sure everyone knows that their contribution to the business was valued and that redundancy selection is in no way a reflection on them personally.

Sympathy and clarity are essential

Be prepared to deal fully with people’s feedback and concerns, and ensure that the information given out is clear, and understood by those concerned. Giving notice is a difficult task, and managers should be trained to handle redundancies with sympathy and clarity. They should feel confident to have supportive and sensitive conversations with people, listen with empathy, and signpost anyone who needs further wellbeing support to the right resources. Employers should remember that being responsible for such processes can be a stressful experience too, and provide support to managers and HR professionals.

Impact on mental health

Being selected for redundancy can have a significant detrimental impact on someone’s mental health, regardless of their previous health history and personal resilience. Immediate and ongoing support should be available to the individual to support their health and wellbeing.

This could include a range of options, including access to occupational health services, counselling and other services via an employee assistance programme (EAP) if this is available. Some EAPs provide continued support for employees who have been made redundant for up to three months after employment has ceased, so try to make this available and ensure that people know how to access it. If the organisation does not have access to these services, employers should provide information on external sources of help and support.

Where possible, employers should also offer outplacement advice to leaving employees, to maintain their morale and help them find alternative employment. Employees may need support to undertake effective job search, including the opportunity to refresh their interview skills, redraft CVs, use social media and other channels for job seeking, and make effective applications.

My next post in this series will cover the redundancy selection process and criteria. For further information on any aspect of redundancy, email me or call me on 020 7099 2621.