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Redundancy Advice



Posted 21 Feb 2024

The moment Geoff Armstrong heard his employer needed to cut back on staff he feared his job as sales manager of a Plymouth building suppliers was on the line.

“I thought there was a good chance I was facing the chop if I didn’t do something about it, so I did,” he explains. A year later and not only is Geoff still in his job, but he’s also been promoted.

Uncertain times

Can you make your job recession proof in these uncertain times? No one is immune in the present financial climate, but consultants believe there are certainly ways to improve your chances of avoiding the chop.
With two people a minute currently being made redundant, whose jobs are at the greatest risk? According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, companies wanting to cut costs look at the backroom first, but if it’s a downturning business they’ll look at frontline staff.

Other studies confirm that when times are hard the jobs first to go are those that cost money rather than make money - usually support positions like administrators, human resources, public relations, customer service and accounting. The good news is that, according to studies, the majority of small business bosses don’t want to let their workers go if it can be avoided.

For instance, nearly 50 per cent of small businesses are freezing recruitment in the hope of avoiding redundancies, one in seven have introduced short time working and 19 per cent are bringing in flexible hours. More than 17 per cent of small companies are trying to save jobs by cutting bonuses and seven per cent are temporarily reducing wages in an attempt to hang onto valuable staff.

“It’s becoming apparent that the workers most likely to escape redundancy are those who are prepared to save the company money, despite the painful consequences,” Dr Neil Street of the Bradford School of Economics says.
So how can you increase your chances of keeping your job in the coming months when all around are losing theirs? These are the suggestions most likely to impress the boss. 

• Offer to reduce your working hours. Even scaling back from 40 hours a week to 35 can often go a long way to keeping the workforce intact.

• Agree to flexible working. A popular system is working peak times and agreeing to a shift system for the rest.
• Take unpaid holidays. It gives you the chance to have time off to do the garden or jobs around the house.
• Work from home. This can reduce your cost to your employer by at least 20 per cent
• Accept an alternative job. Some bosses are offering what’s known as bumping - inviting workers to take a step down the career ladder to keep a job, rather than risking trying to get another. It’s up to you to decide whether job security is worth a salary cut, but recent tribunal decisions have shown that bumping is considered a fair and legal way of dealing with redundancies.
• Be visible. Get yourself noticed by taking an active interest in all work issues and make constructive suggestions at meetings.

• Be proactive and let everyone - especially the boss - see how much you enjoy the job. He’s more likely to keep a happy worker than one who’s continually moaning.
• Update your skills by taking advantage of any training courses or seminars that will bring you up to speed on new trends and developments in your industry. Make an honest assessment of your skills and see how you can improve them.
• Change working practices. Agree to ‘V time’ (voluntary reduced working time) or reduced or discontinuing overtime until things improve. 
• Agree to job sharing. This has risen by 40 per cent since 2009 and can produce spectacular results. For instance, studies show that 70 per cent of workers involved in job sharing can generate up to 30 per cent more output than if just one person did the job.
• Look for ways of saving your company money. A worker who cut his department’s printing bills by 40 per cent still has a job when six of his colleagues - some senior - no longer have.
If you can do something like that in your present job, get busy and make sure your boss knows about it because you can be just as indispensable if you save money as if you make it.
That’s just what Geoff Armstrong did. “I went on an outsourcing course at my own expense and was able to suggest ways in which we could save on accountancy and stock taking that has saved nearly £50,000 this year,” he says. “There’s no doubt it’s also saved my job, too.”

Ability to innovate

“The ability to innovate is probably the greatest protection against redundancy,” confirms Dr Jonathan Trevor of Cambridge Judge Business School. “If you can do that successfully, you’ll probably keep your job.”

Of course, the easiest survival strategy would seem to be a no brainer - keep your head down, keep quiet and don’t draw attention to yourself.

“Absolutely wrong,” declares career consultant Craig Randall of DHR International. “This is the time you should beef up your performance and prove your worth. Laying off someone who keeps quiet is much easier than getting rid of someone who other people know is working hard. The people who hide are usually the first to go.”

Studies at the Bradford School of Economics show there are other groups of workers whom bosses often find almost impossible to lay off, regardless of their output or performance. They’re the people who know a company is legally obliged to find them alternative work, those who are likely to start up in opposition with their redundancy money and workers who know their legal right to suggest how redundancy can be avoided.

Workers who are part of more than 20 redundancies are legally entitled to at least 30 days’ consultation and companies are often reluctant to spare that amount of time.

Top performer

Of course, there’s never any guarantee you won’t be laid off in the coming months, but experts claim there are ways of making your job more recession proof.

“The key to avoiding redundancy is not so much to recession proof your job, but recession proof yourself,” Neil Street says. “With a bit of forward planning, people can make themselves more marketable by thinking where their job might be in the future and what they need to be able to do it.

“At the end of the day, the way to keep your job is to be a top performer. Even when they’re shedding people in a recession, companies will always be keen to hold onto their best talent.”

Is your job recession proof?

Answer yes to the majority of these questions and you should have a good chance of surviving redundancy, according to management consultant Dr Caela Farren.

• Is your job critical to your organisation’s purpose and future?
• Does your job closely affect the customer? Are you a vital link?
• Do changes in technology make your job more vital to your business’ success?
• Would it be difficult to outsource your work?
• Are you regarded as a key figure in your organisation?
• Are you the person people turn to in a crisis?
• Have you acquired all the skills needed to keep pace with changes in your industry?

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