Employers advised about ‘pandemic effect’ of tribunal risk after redundancies

• Tribunals can take place three months after redundancies are complete
• Increasing numbers of tribunal claims according to the Ministry of Justice
• Risk potentially increases in poor job market says experts

According to the Ministry of Justice, single employment tribunal claims have risen by 18% during the pandemic (April to June 2020) compared to the same period last year. Figures also show the outstanding tribunal caseload is higher than the previous peak in 2009/2010. An expert from Renovo, the UK’s leading specialist provider of outplacement support, says that the ‘pandemic effect’ on the job market has a double whammy for employers – not only having to make roles redundant in the first place, but a potential risk of increased tribunals if former employees aren’t able to find a new role.

Chris Parker, Managing Director of Renovo, explained:

“A claim to an employment tribunal must usually be made within 3 months less 1 day of being made redundant. However, a very sad impact of the pandemic is that is even fewer job opportunities are available for departing employees to replace their income. This means those that are made redundant who can’t find new roles may focus their frustration on their previous employer, especially if the end of their employment wasn’t handled sensitively.

“Simply put, it has never been so important for employers to manage redundancies extremely carefully to protect their operational and reputational risks now and in the future. We’d recommend giving departing employees the opportunity to focus on practical next steps, so they feel supported. Not only is this a positive step for an employer brand, it also means they are less likely to seek redress against the organisation if they feel they’ve been looked after.”

Renovo recommends employers:

1. Clearly and Consistently Communicate. It is critical to build a clear and simple message to help explain the rationale for the changes and ensure that all stakeholders are delivering the message consistently.

2. Know their Audience. It can be easy to overlook the fact that redundancy will affect each individual in very different ways. Try to look beyond the basic information you will have such length of service, age, salary and benefits to more personal details such as relationship status, number of dependents or health and financial issues. The greater your knowledge of the audience the more likely it will be to build trust and anticipate potential issues.

3. Get the timing right. There is no such thing as a good time to announce a redundancy consultation, but there is certainly a bad time. Careful consideration on timing can help limit the risk of the organisation appearing insensitive and avoid any long-term damage to the employer brand.

4. Hold follow up Meetings. Don’t underestimate the value of the follow up meetings during consultation as a means to help people come to terms with the potential impact of the situation.

5. Rehearse. Regardless of whether it’s a group or individual consultation, it is important to carefully plan what to say. Prepare a script and practice delivery – rehearsals will help to become comfortable and confident with the message which is what the affected employees need.

6. Consider the Environment. This is a very difficult message to hear, so it is important that any individual consultation is carried out in a private location, without the risk of interruptions. Creating an environment where the employee feels comfortable and secure will play a vital role in helping them come to terms with the news.

7. Show Compassion and Listen. It’s important to follow due process, remain professional, and be focused in the approach but this doesn’t mean that compassion can’t be showed. This is an emotional experience for both the employee and for the person delivering the message so don’t be worried about showing empathy, and give time to listen and understand their issues.

8. Be Visible, Supportive and United. It is usual for those delivering news of redundancy to feel a sense of guilt and responsibility for the situation, sometimes resulting in avoiding further discussion. To limit any negative impact on the remaining workforce it is critical that senior managers, business leaders and HR remain visible, supportive and united throughout the process.

9. Manage Expectations. When delivering the message of potential redundancy it might be tempting to try and soften the blow with more positive or hopeful messages. Be as clear and transparent as possible on the situation. Set clear expectations in terms of the timeframes and process involved and help them to understand what they need to do and consider as next steps.

10. Communicate Available Support. The process of redundancy can feel like a lonely journey for an individual even when it forms part of a large-scale restructure. The communication of available support can help soften the blow and demonstrate that employees are not facing their next steps alone.

Chris Parker added:

“Managing redundancies is never easy but being able to communicate and deliver effective support to employees can help manage a smooth transition through consultation periods and beyond. Once the redundancy decision has been made, quickly mobilising the best support to help the company and employees can help manage employer costs and risks”.

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