Redundancy can have a significant affect on an individual, and on a psychological level, employees may experience difficulty adjusting. The personal impact of redundancy has even been compared to the emotions experienced during bereavement and each response is unique and valid.

Some organisations put a huge effort into the ‘day of impact’ which is commendable, however many fail to see that the real support for redundancy is needed after the news has been broken.

Choosing to do the ‘right thing’

There are requirements via legislation that organisations are obligated to follow throughout the redundancy process (and may also have obligations via awards, contracts and/or enterprise agreements), however there is a much smaller focus on ‘doing the right thing’ once the employee has been notified. Although not mandated, there are many things that an organisation can do to demonstrate a genuine level of support that is appropriate to the decision that has just been made.

By providing additional assistance, the organisation can help to alleviate stress and hardship. Redundancy creates a genuine opportunity for the employer to demonstrate that this was about removing the ‘position’ and not the ‘person’ and that they are prepared to walk alongside the employee in partnership on the path of uncertainty.

Whilst the motivation to support the employee should not be purely for organisational benefit, there are many advantages that will come to a business for choosing to recognise and respect employees. Some of these employer benefits include:

  • Impacted employees will be easier to deal with through the redundancy process;
  • Non-impacted employees will respect the care and compassion demonstrated to their peers and it will give them a sense of comfort on how they could expect to be treated if they were ever in that scenario;
  • Employee engagement is less likely to be impacted;
  • Absenteeism is less likely to increase as a result of organisational change;
  • Positive customer, stakeholder and investor relations are likely to remain;
  • Brand damage will be minimised;
  • Existing employees will be retained and there will be a reduced risk of them seeking alternative employment;
  • A reduction of the risk of claims such as unfair dismissal, breach of general protections or discrimination; and
  • Good will in the bank will be generated with existing employees and enforce a reputation for authentic and transparent leadership.

Employees that receive support by an organisation after they have been impacted through redundancy are likely to:

  • Have a reduced ongoing psychological or emotional impact;
  • Keep a positive relationship with the current employer;
  • Speak positively about the leaders in the organisation and the business in general;
  • Possess a level of optimism about the future;
  • Feel supported to find alternative employment; and
  • Continue to work in a productive manner throughout their notice period.

What are the main options to support employees?

There are unlimited options for an organisation to support employees that have been impacted by redundancy. Supporting employees is a specialist skill and where possible, it is recommended that organisations invest in an outplacement service.

For some employers, this external investment is not possible due to insufficient budget. Whilst it would be considered best practice, there are many alternatives that an organisation can choose to minimise impact and potential hardship on an employee.

Before an organisation decides on the most appropriate support service, consideration should be given to:

  • How will it be received by the impacted employees?
  • What budget would be required to implement the service?
  • The scope of the proposed service including how many employees would have access?
  • When the support will be provided and whether it will be held on site or off site?
  • Will employees be paid for the time that they are receiving support?

The following are some options for employers to help support employees affected by redundancy:

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Time off for interviews Financial support services
Support with job preparation Support in identifying strengths, hidden skills and opportunities Additional training / finalisation of professional certificates / tickets
Goal Setting discussions Mentoring Commitment to continue to seek suitable alternative positions

What type of employees are most likely to require additional support?

Redundancy is an individual experience, even when there are multiple impacts. Organisations are encouraged to assess each employee on their individual needs and requirements. There will be employees who:

  • Require extensive support
  • Require minimal support
  • Believe that they do not need support, but would benefit from organisational support
  • Believe that they need lots of support, however, may just require some initial direction and advice

Employees that are likely to require reduced ongoing support are those that:

  • Are likely to receive a large severance pay
  • Have been actively seeking alternate employment
  • Have already secured alternative employment and were about to resign
  • Were considering retirement in the next twelve months
  • Are not the breadwinner in the family
  • Are well connected
  • Are considered specialists in their field
  • Are confident in their abilities
  • Respond well to change
  • Have a strong family and friends support network

Employees that are likely to require additional ongoing support are those that:

  • Are already experiencing hardship
  • Have had long tenure and don’t know other work environments
  • Are the primary breadwinner in the family
  • Have substantial financial commitments
  • Have just made a large financial purchase – e.g.home, caravan or car
  • Are specialists to the industry or organisation and may not be considered skilled in other work environments
  • Are within five years of retirement
  • Are currently paid above market rates
  • Currently enjoy flexible arrangements required for child or elder care
  • Feel that their uniqueness will not be accepted or valued elsewhere
  • Have a disability
  • Are currently underperforming
  • Don’t like change
  • Have experienced a bad redundancy in the past
  • Are the victims of domestic violence
  • Struggle with mental health

Never make assumptions

Sometimes an organisation may expect a certain type of employee to experience a large impact (e.g. a single mother), however it may be an employee (e.g. a male in a senior position) that needs the most support. This could be because the employee is dealing with health issues, a divorce or may have just lost a loved one. It is important not to put employees in boxes or to make assumptions about their personal life as every employee has their own unique set of circumstances.

Ultimately, the best thing an employer can do is to ensure that they don’t treat employees like ‘numbers’ or savings on the balance sheet. It is common for employers to say, “its not personal”, but anyone that has experienced the anguish of financial strain and rejection will tell you that the decision may not have been personal – but the impact certainly is.

Further information

For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300556677 for further information.

For redundancy related articles, tools and templates please see the Redundancy section of the HR Resource Centre  Some specific resources that may be of assistance include:

Redundancy Management Handbook

Our Redundancy Management Handbook is designed to assist employers approach redundancy management with confidence and sets out practical advice on the steps which employers need to take before making any employee redundant.

An accompanying updating subscription service is available for this publication. Updates are sent as new information is available and when legislative changes or case law developments occur; keeping you up to date on the latest issues!

Ai Group members receive significant discounts on all our Handbooks and subscription services. Visit our online shop for more information.

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.