Home' HR Monthly : October 2018 Contents October 2018 HRM magazine 19
THE LOGISTICS OF
Rosemary Guyatt says HR must remember
the basics when telling staff they’re being
made redundant. “All of that planning detail
can impinge on how well the conversation
goes. It’s a hard conversation anyway, and if
it’s distracted by some of those logistics going
wrong, all of those things can make it spiral into
something much worse.”
She offers the following pointers:
Make sure everyone is in the office on the
Don’t do it on a Friday afternoon.
Conduct everything in a confidential space.
Ensure the appropriate support people are
ready and available.
It’s simple, but double-check that the right
people know where and when to turn up.
One of my redundancies flew so high above
expectations it stands out as a nice memory.
The twist is it happened at the same company
as my first – the ugliest. I’d returned to the fold
months later, and was there for five more years.
And in that time, the company grew. It rose
from a startup to a market leader. And to its
credit, it changed its practices to the point
that I consider the way it handled my team’s
redundancy an effective case study.
It was a matter of outsourcing. Editorial was
being transferred to Poland. However, when
the redundancy packages were announced,
they were all generous. No-one had to leave
that day, genuine redeployment offers were
made, and some of us were retained for months
to help onboard the offshore team.
A partner at law firm Hall and Willcox,
Kylie Groves, says that, historically, “having
a generous redundancy policy was often seen
as a method of staff retention. You give your
employees secu rity – ‘ We don’t think we’re ever
going to have to make you redundant, but if we
do, then you’ll get this generous amount.’”
Beyond the effect this kind of policy can
have on remaining staff, it also benefits the
business. When redundancies occur, there
is usually some handing over of skills and
responsibilities. A nd when staff feel fairly dealt
with, they are more inclined to be helpful. For
my part, I look back fondly on helping to train
the offshore team that replaced mine, and it
remains a point of pride on my resume.
Groves says the crucial legal concern HR needs
to be aware of when it comes to redundancies
is making sure the role is genuinely redundant.
Because choosing to use redundancy as an
alternative to other dismissal processes – which
may involve warnings and meetings – is a sure
way to fall foul of the Fair Work Act.
“You need to gather evidence about why
a position is no longer required, and that
evidence needs to inform your decision about
which positions are to be made redundant – not
the other way around,” says Groves.
And she warns that if companies –
intentionally or otherwise – make an employee
redundant for non-genuine reasons, they can
face unfair dismissal claims.
“If they have selected someone for
redundancy for a prohibited reason – for
instance, they’ve selected someone because
they’re a troublemaker, they’ve exercised
workplace rights in the past, or they have some
protected attribute, like they’re on maternity
leave or they’ve got a current workers comp
claim – then they could be at risk.”
You scratch my back
Guyatt notes that in situations of redundancy,
affected employees still “have to be responsible
for handing their work over”. In a situation
like my great redundancy – where we were
responsible for training an offshore team –
treating staff well has very positive effects.
“If the handover isn’t good and all
the knowledge just disappears, then that
outsourcing arrangement is also going to be
problematic,” says Guyatt. “So the fact that
you’re all feeling somewhat motivated to
support that process, when it may not have
gone that way, means that business continuity
is much more likely to be successful.”
That my ‘great’ redundancy was also the
one where the employer stood to gain the most
from those being made redundant doesn’t
strike my cynical mind as coincidental. But at
the same time, I don’t have a problem with that
bargain. If companies become aware that they
can improve their own situation by handling
redundancies with compassion, support and
generosity, that’s a win-win.
As Guyatt says, “Making good decisions
means that all parties – all the stakeholders –
are going to have a much better outcome.”
If each of my redundancies was handled well,
I doubt I’d feel a sense of foreboding whenever
major news is announced in my workplace. If
each time I’d recieved genuine commun ication
and support, I imagine I’d see a redundancy as
representing what it ought to represent: a shift
in the company’s situation and a chance for me
to spread my wings.
It’s just a shame it feels so much like an
ejector seat. •••
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