Steering a smooth ride through a big redundancy programme

Problem

We were asked by a multi-national corporate client to undertake a large-scale redundancy programme due to a drop in sales. The client had around 3,500 employees and needed to reduce that figure by around 800 employees. A trade union represented the workforce, which was unused to change programmes of such a scale.

Solution

We supported the client though the duration of the process: at the very early stages with strategic planning, in the launch of the consultation and the associated publicity and employee communications, during the consultation process itself. We successfully concluded the process without any resulting Employment Tribunal claims or ongoing issues.

Takeaways

While a large exercise, the principles we applied in supporting this client and the approach they took are applicable to redundancy exercises of all sizes. These were some of the keys to success:

  1. Plan, plan and plan some more.
  2. Once you have a plan, engage with the workforce as soon as you can. A balance has to be struck between announcing change that has not yet been properly planned (a bad idea) and announcing change as a proposal that has been planned, but is not yet set in stone (a good idea).
  3. Establish the communication channels and stick to them – whether via a Trade Union, employee representatives of the employees themselves.
  4. Create Q&A documents, briefing notes and guides and ensure they are freely available.
  5. Record in writing your rationale for assessing employees and be prepared to share this.
  6. Keep an open mind about suggestions made by the workforce to avoid redundancy. There are few bad ideas, just ideas that need to be explored, assessed and (if appropriate) declined. Any ideas that are declined need to be supported with worked up reasons.
  7. As early as you can, propose the redundancy pay terms and the possible redundancy date. We find that at-risk employees are (understandably) initially focused on the ‘when’ and the ‘how much’. Once some guidance is given here, we find that employees are more able to focus on the wider consultation.
  8. Don’t fill vacant roles with external candidates during a redundancy consultation. Open these up to the ‘at-risk’ population and do all you can to retain people. This is true even if you have to offer a trial or flex terms to accommodate personal circumstances.
  9. Consider other businesses that may be recruiting and approach them to establish whether they will consider taking on any redundant employees. In larger exercises, consider a jobs fair and any related support you may be able to secure from local government.
  10. Make sure all redundant employees have a right of appeal and are kept in the loop for any new roles that are subsequently created.
We’re here to help

If you’re exploring a redundancy programme, have a chat with Mark Minns (free of charge), to find out how we can help you.

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