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What is the personal impact of stand downs and redundancies?
Let’s not sugar coat it – times are tough. If you haven’t personally been impacted by reduced hours, a stand down or redundancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high chance someone close to you has. The devastation is widespread and the impact to business and the individuals within it is huge. Most of us have never experienced such circumstances and to make matters worse we are doing it in isolation.
Employees used to be concerned about organisational reshuffles that may impact them through redundancy – but now there is a new fear. Sadly, due to the pandemic, employers are faced with making extremely tough decisions in a desperate attempt to save the business. Qantas and Jetstar had to move quickly in making these tough decisions by standing down two thirds of their workforce, but unfortunately, they were not alone with many more (including the AFL) following.
Impacting employees through redundancies, stand downs or reduced hours is a difficult conversation for the employer and not surprisingly, its even more challenging for the employee. Our employment is our security, our livelihood and the reason that we can pay our mortgages, school fees and living expenses. Employees may understand that organisations have no choice and that they themselves may be in a world of pain, but unfortunately it won’t stop the feeling of rejection, devastation and fear.
An employee who has just been told that they have lost their job or will be stood down will likely experience shock. Whilst they may not be overly surprised, hearing the words to confirm their fear will most likely have an element of shock. This creates a ‘fight or flight’ response where common reactions include increased pulse, anxiety, confusion and sometimes nausea.
Employees may quickly connect the personal impact to the worldwide pandemic outside of anyone’s control, but shock can quickly lead to anger and frustration. Almost immediately, there is a sense of disappointment, rejection and embarrassment which can quickly translate to anger. This anger is usually at the business, but it can initially be directed at the ‘messenger’.
Sometimes it only takes a minute or two for the employee to move quickly into fear. This is a natural and expected emotion as employment provides security for our livelihoods. Very quickly employees will start mentally scrolling through their financial commitments and begin to panic. If the employee impacted is the ‘breadwinner’ of the family, this feeling will escalate quickly. Losing a job or being stood down means more than simply not going on holidays. This challenges the ability of the everyday Australian to pay basic bills required to live in their homes.
Even in the climate of COVID-19, there is a still a shame tag associated with impact. At our core, we understand the devastation and business requirements, but there is always that internal dialogue of, “if I was good enough – they would have found a way to keep me”. Many employees fear telling those closest to them as they feel a strong sense of failing the family. Losing a job or being stood down is about a season in an employee’s life, but it is common for employees to doubt whether they will survive the storm.
For some employees, a stand down or redundancy may just leave a ‘few scratches’ and for others, it will bring them and their families to their knees. Unfortunately, the personal impacts of job loss are significant, ugly and long lasting. Losing income is the most obvious concern, however the emotional and psychological impact cannot be understated. Employers are encouraged to do all possible to support employees through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if they have them and by providing information about core support services to employees.
For assistance with any workplace matter, Ai Group members can contact us or call the Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77.
Ai Group is continually publishing new COVID-19 advice and resources for employers:
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