Sarah Lafferty, now director of Round Earth Consulting, was once a senior manager at energy company Centrica and remembers when the firm had to make a lot of redundancies over the space of a year. ‘Centrica sent all managers on a course called “Breaking the News” that taught us how to make people redundant,’ she recalls.
Lafferty explains how the course trained them in certain skills then let them practise these in roleplays using trained actors. ‘I found this immensely helpful because the scenarios were so realistic,’ she notes, adding, ‘I felt this training was so incredibly beneficial, not just to me but the people I had to make redundant.’ In fact, one of the people Lafferty broke the news of redundancy to wrote to her and thanked her for the way she handled it and for preparing her with the information she needed. ‘I must have handled it pretty well,’ says Lafferty.
Preparing managers for redundancies
Gareth Chick, director of consultancy firm Spring Partnerships, believes preparing managers like this is key to effectively handling redundancy. From his experience of being a chairman and a managing director at different companies, Chick knows all about having to run redundancy programmes and now advises other firms on the issue.
He states that the process of redundancy is akin to the ‘cycle of grief’. ‘Understanding that your staff will be moving through this cycle will not only help you empathise with staff, but it also makes your role as manager clear,’ advises Chick. He notes, ‘Companies should recognise that job losses have a major psychological impact on employees – those leaving and those remaining.’
When faced with the possibility of redundancies, employers should always seek specialist advice to make sure they are following correct procedure. Employment lawyer Marc Jones, partner at Turbervilles Solicitors, warns, ‘If an employer intends to make fewer than 20 redundancies than there is no fixed procedure to follow. However, the process must be ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’.’ He adds, ‘If an employer intends to make 20 or more employees redundant within a 90-day period, they must follow a statutory procedure.’ He urges employers to remember that if they fail to follow statutory processes, any dismissals they made could be rendered unfair and they are then held liable.