What to do when faced with redundancy

No employee wants to get that dreaded call, letter, or ‘we need to talk’ moment that ends in redundancy. Whether it’s been common knowledge for a while that the company is in trouble, or you’re the victim of unexpected ‘downsizing’, redundancy leaves you wondering what to do next. If you are at risk of losing your job through your employer becoming insolvent or for any other reason, it’s vital that you know your rights.

Is your redundancy fair?

The first thing to examine is whether or not your redundancy is a fair one. There are normally three clear categories that give rise to job losses – insolvency (the business stops trading), your workplace is closed or relocated, or your job becomes surplus to requirements. That final category could include anything from the role being replaced by new technology to a streamlining of the business so that your position is no longer required.

If the business is making selective redundancies it can feel as if you’re being singled out, leading to self-doubt and anxiety over whether or not the redundancy was ‘your fault’. It’s important not to take it too personally – in the vast majority of redundancies it is simply down to the fact that the business is either restructuring, scaling down, or revising its working model. That can result in job losses.

Remember that you’re not alone. Nearly 40% of people have faced redundancy at least once in their working lives and no matter how much notice you get or the reasons behind it, losing your job is an upsetting and unsettling experience.

However, if you suspect that your redundancy is not ‘legitimate’ or that your employer has failed to follow the correct redundancy procedure, you may have a case for unfair dismissal.

Is it really a redundancy?

In the context of an unfair dismissal claim, it will be for the ex-employer to show what the reason, or if there was more than one, the principal reason was for dismissing the employee, and that it was a potentially fair reason.   Under the relevant employment legislation, there are five potentially fair reasons for dismissal, and redundancy is one of the five.

However, even if the employer can satisfy the tribunal that the reason for dismissal was fair, they still have to show that they acted reasonably in all the circumstances of the case.   That will include a consideration as to whether the employer followed a fair procedure. Your boss can’t just walk up to you and hand you your notice on the spot. They have to give you (and any other workers to be made redundant) fair warning that redundancies are being considered. For large-scale redundancies, there has to be a consultation process with either Union representatives or legal representatives to consider how to minimise the impact of mass job losses, and there are specific timeframes to adhere to. This includes looking at relocating workers to other positions within the organisation, or even moving workers to a different site. If this is an option then a relocation package will usually need to be discussed and agreed to minimise the financial impact on workers who decide to take that offer.

If you think that any of these criteria haven’t been met then it may be time to talk to a legal expert about an employment tribunal.

What next?

If everything has been done fairly, then it’s time to think about the future. You may be entitled to redundancy pay if you’ve worked for your employer for two years, which may ease immediate financial worries. However, it’s important to get a clear overview of your finances and start prioritising payments such as rent/mortgage payments, utility bills, and council tax.

Temporary jobs are currently plentiful, so it may be worth taking on a short-term contract to keep the money coming in until you find something more long-term. But if you cannot get temporary work straight away then it’s time to find out what benefits you’re entitled to, which will ensure you don’t start falling behind with those key bills.

You can also see this as an opportunity to re-evaluate your career. Were you truly happy in your old job? Or is it time to try a new direction? If you haven’t been in the job market for some time, there are government schemes and programmes that will help you revise your CV and be more focused, efficient and ultimately successful when it comes to tracking down that next job.

Remember that if you do feel your dismissal was unfair, talk to an employment law expert as soon as possible, as you’ll only have a limited and short amount of time to bring any claim for unfair dismissal.