Despair or delight? Dealing with redundancy

There’s no escaping the fact that every way we turn there is news of cuts and jobs being axed. In the public sector the outlook is particularly grim with 725,000 jobs to go in the next five years. So if your number’s up what should you do and how do you navigate the waters that can see you alternating between hope and utter despair?

There’s no escaping the fact that every way we turn there is news of cuts and jobs being axed. In the public sector the outlook is particularly grim with 725,000 jobs to go in the next five years. So if your number’s up what should you do and how do you navigate the waters that can see you alternating between hope and utter despair?
 
Receiving the bad news:
It may have been on the rumour-mill for sometime so if you’re lucky you will have been given some time to chew over the impending bad news before it is officially delivered. Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says the first  thing to do is to keep your cool:.“Stay calm and don’t feel that it’s all your fault,’ he advises ‘’You shouldn’t be ashamed that you’ve lost your job.”  Initial feelings of anger and panic are fairly normal but don’t be tempted to bad-mouth your employer or start a campaign of retaliation because the truth is that you will need to stay on good terms  - you may  need a reference and you may look  to start networking in the same circles if you want to continue in the industry. If you wind up in an Employment Tribunal over a disputed redundancy claim you also don’t want to label yourself as a trouble maker in front of the deciding panel.
 
Mike agrees it can be hard to keep your decorum and admits that redundancy is one of life’s biggest devastating events, along with divorce and the death of your parents. But he says that the best thing really to do is confide in friends and family and take a breather to vent your angst.  Go for a drink with your colleagues even but just be careful what you say and don’t go down the route of getting horribly drunk – you’ll just get a sore head and feel twice as bad the next day.
 
Check out your rights:
Understandably, your first thoughts will turn to how you might cope financially. Thankfully, there is legislation to govern minimum standards of redundancy but many companies top this up so check out your contract to see what is owed.
 
Redundancy pay is calculated on the basis of how long you have been continuously employed, your age and your weekly pay, up to a certain limit (£380 current maximum). You are also entitled to be consulted prior to getting the official nod that you’ve been made redundant and this period should be paid. If it’s a collective redundancy, where mass lay offs are occurring then you will be entitled to consultation of at least 30 days if there are between 20 -99 redundancies or 90 days consultation where 100 or more are losing their jobs. Failure to consult may entitle you to a protective award of up to 90 days’ pay should  an Employment Tribunal find in your favour.
 
As well as a redundancy payment, your employer should pay you through your notice period, or payment in lieu of notice depending upon your circumstances. Where your employer is declared as being insolvent or cannot pay your redundancy pay you can apply for a direct payment from the National Insurance Fund. To do this you must first write to your employer asking for your redundancy pay. If they are still unable to pay you then you should fill out a RP1 form available from the Insolvency Service.
 
Mike says you should also be careful if you’re offered a compromise agreement which is often presented as a financial offer in order that you go quietly.  “It may stipulate that you’ll agree not to make any further claims against the company  - but always take legal advice before you sign anything of this kind," he advises. ‘’It has to be signed by a qualified, third party so a Trade Union representative or, if you haven’t got one, then perhaps someone from the Citizens Advice Bureau.”
 
There is also legislation governing whether or not you have been fairly chosen and, if not, whether you have a claim for unfair dismissal – if this is the case then seek legal advice.
 
Using the time you’ve got left constructively:
You may be required to work your notice period so use this time constructively. Most employers will accept the fact that you will want to use any downtime especially at lunchtime to surf the jobs boards. Also be aware that you are afforded the right to reasonable time off for job hunting or to arrange training when facing redundancy.
 
You may be torn between sadness that you’re leaving a job that you love or secret elation that you’ve been released from a job that was dragging you down and that you wanted to leave anyway. Whichever way you go, you need to start thinking about what you’re going to do next. This may be determined by how many reserves you have financially. If you’re lucky, you could take some time out to re-train to start a new career, go travelling or do some volunteering.  But if money is pressing you might need to start the job search straight away.
 
Mike says the most positive attitude is to view a crisis as an opportunity. “Finding a job is a job in itself so plan your job search,’’ he says. ‘’Start by polishing your CV. For many public sector workers this will be a new experience because they may not have had to write a CV for a very long time.” If presenting your skills seems rather daunting or you’re out of practice then seek outside help.
 
Networking can also help but there is a fine line between showcasing your skills  and embarrassing yourself and looking desperate: “Yes, there are parallels with finding a job and romance,” laughs Mike, who agrees that you don’t want to give the impression that you’ll take anything and that you’re are at an all time low.
 
Accept the position you’re in:
Once the period of anger and despair has gone and you have accepted that you are now redundant, you also need to be realistic. Mike says that ‘downshifting’ is one way of finding a new job – so be prepared to take a salary hit. It may only be for a while until your new employer realises your potential, but it is a good way of   getting your foot in the door.
 
Being made redundant when you’re in your early twenties can be very different to getting the news when you’re near retirement but Mike says that it doesn’t always mean you need to take an early pension. “It can be slightly daunting if you’re 63, for example, and you’re not quite ready to retire but some employers will recognise that older workers are great value,’’ he says. ‘’Take B&Q for example. Despite the fact that physical and mental capacity can deteriorate, experience will increase.’’
 
Make sure that you have a hold on your finances. “Don’t spend all your redundancy pay at once is pretty standard advice,” adds Mike, who says: “It may take a while before you find work. Get advice on what you should do if you receive a lump sum payment and start thinking about your lifestyle and where you could make changes.”
Many working mums will relish the opportunity to spend some more time with the children and redundancy can give back that precious time but if you need to return to work then the best advice is start job hunting from day one and use reputable jobs boards like www.workingmums.co.uk and be sure to tap into the great contacts you’ve already got.
 





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