Coping with Redundancy
Coping with Redundancy
Few can fail to be aware that the legal profession is currently undergoing an unprecedented period of turmoil and unrest, with reductions in all types of work leaving many firms in a difficult financial position. Inevitably firms need to make economies if they are to survive the downturn and unfortunately many of those economies are amongst staff who are, to put it at its simplest, the biggest overhead that most firms have.
Attitude to redundancy
There can be few employees who want to be made redundant, any more than there are employers who want to have to make redundancies, so when the situation arises there are essentially two ways forward:
- the recriminations and anger route, which is likely to achieve nothing other than getting everyone upset, and
- the practical, get on and do something about it route.
There are two important factors to bear in mind about redundancy:
- the first is that redundancy is not a sign of failure on the employee’s part – it is invariably due to economic factors beyond the control of the employee, or sometimes even the employer, and as such has no bearing whatsoever upon ability or capability, and is unlikely to be viewed as such by subsequent employers. Indeed some people even volunteer to take redundancy as a means of improving their own position either financially or within the jobs market.
- the second is that, hard as it might be, staying positive about the redundancy position, especially at its earliest stages where you may merely have been selected as someone who is in a pool of people potentially to be made redundant, is vital. Indeed, being seen by an employer to continue to be a useful and contributing member of the team may prevent you from being one of those selected for redundancy. Even after you have been made redundant, remaining positive about your employer is a good tactic, especially if questioned about the matter at a subsequent job interview. Not only will it make you appear in a better light as someone who was the mere unfortunate victim of a necessary business economy, but also no potential employer wants to think that you may speak badly of them should your employment terminate.
Practical steps on redundancy
Assuming that you have been selected for potential redundancy, there are a number of practical steps which you should consider taking.
If you are the only person being made redundant, or one of a number of people all of whom have been selected for redundancy, without there being a pool from whom those people are chosen – for example because you are the only employee(s) in a particular sector of business and the work in that sector has disappeared or because a particular office is to be closed and everyone at that office is being made redundant – then you will need to look at ways in which you can persuade your employer that redundancy is not the only, or even the best, way forward. You may be able to offer to be redeployed at another office or in another department or to retrain for another area of work. However, since you are not in a pool being considered for redundancy, there may be nothing you can do to make yourself more attractive in the eyes of your employer when compared to others within the firm.
If, however, you have been selected as one of many in a pool of people being considered for redundancy then you need to look at the criteria which the employer has applied, first in the selection process for the pool and then in relation to how those within the pool will be selected for redundancy. Objective selection criteria such as skills, experience, qualifications, disciplinary record and attendance/punctuality should be the criteria used and not personal or subjective ones – especially those which could be discriminatory such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability. If you feel that the criteria are not being fairly applied then you may wish to consider challenging those decisions.
Another practical step you may consider if you are within a pool is doing things to make you a more attractive employee than one of your colleagues. Whilst it is arguable that you may have left this a bit late if you are only doing it after potential redundancies have been announced, it may still not be too late if you and other colleagues are in the same position. Thus, for example, you may feel that it would be useful to start doing some marketing to try and increase the amount of work coming into your department, increasing your contacts or finding other ways to reduce the overhead of your department.
If you are selected for redundancy
If you are selected for redundancy then you will be invited to a meeting with your employer to discuss the forthcoming redundancy. You will be entitled to bring a colleague to that meeting should you wish. This meeting is an ideal opportunity for you to put forward to your employer, assuming that the opportunity has not arisen before, any ideas which you may have for avoiding redundancy. This might involve:
- offering to retrain in another area of law,
- working on a reduced hours basis,
- entering into a job-share arrangement,
- being deployed into another department for which you already have the requisite skills, or
- agreeing to be laid-off on a temporary basis until such time as picks up.
If there are other roles within the firm which you would be suitable for, then your employer should consider putting you forward for these. You are even allowed to take these roles on a trial basis without ultimately prejudicing any rights which you may have to a redundancy payment.
Assuming that none of the suggestions above find favour, you should use this meeting as an opportunity for you to ascertain in more detail the criteria which have been used in selecting you for redundancy, how those factors have been scored and the score that you received.
Following that meeting you will be given a written copy of the decision which the employer has made regarding your redundancy and an opportunity to appeal against that decision – although it is fair to say that you are unlikely to change many decisions at that meeting. You need also to be sure that you receive all of your entitlements including your full notice pay, a payment in lieu of any unused holidays, your statutory redundancy pay (the amount of which should be notified to you by your employer) and any outstanding expenses or other benefits to which you are entitled.
You should also clarify the position with regard to your practising certificate. There is no benefit to your employer in attempting to rescind that certificate – the SRA don’t give refunds. However, you do want to make sure that you have that certificate to take away with you. It might be worth also checking that a practising certificate has been taken out. It may be one of the economies your employer has decided to make without telling you – but that on its own will not prevent you from being prima facie liable for practising uncertificated.
Finally, if you think that your redundancy may have been unfair, then you should appeal against it in writing to your employer as soon as possible and seek immediate legal advice. This may, for example, be on the grounds that you feel you have been unfairly selected for redundancy, that correct procedures have not been followed or because you do not believe there is a genuine redundancy and an otherwise unfair dismissal is simply being dressed up as a redundancy to take advantage of the current market.
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