How Does It Feel To Make Somebody Redundant For The First Time?

‘While it is obviously an emotional time for the affected employees, I have also felt stressed by the process,’ HR consultant Catherine, 36, says. ‘I get worried I haven’t covered every angle or that I have missed some information that will be vitally important during consultation. There can also be the upsetting, uncomfortable sessions when you have a tearful individual in front of you.

‘Nobody goes into HR wanting to make people redundant, but you need to be a certain type of person. If you’re somebody who is very emotional and you get upset in front of the other person then that is not helpful for the person being made redundant. You have to have a bit of a front and remain professional during those conversations.’

Catherine has worked in HR for 15 years, and says that out of all of the challenges that come with working in that field, the one you ‘take home with you’ is when you enter into a redundancy or company restructure situation. The first time she did this when she was 24, and five years ago she then had to make members of her own team redundant. ‘It was people I’d known for nearly 10 years – it was part of a restructure, so they could have applied for other jobs but on a lower level, so they didn’t want to do that,’ she says. ‘By the end of the process they had got their head around it, but they weren’t happy about me taking their job away – and that’s how they saw it. The decision was made by a director but it went to me to tell them, so it looked like it was my fault.’

Although redundancies can seem personal, it’s not you yourself, but your job that is being made redundant. But what makes a company decide to go down this route in the first place? ‘It’s never a case of ‘we don’t want this person, let’s make them redundant’ – in the eyes of a tribunal that wouldn’t be redundancy anyway, it would be a performance issue,’ Catherine says. ‘Sometimes cost is a driver, but redundancies could be down to other factors, such as putting a team centrally so you no longer need regional hubs, or putting a new structure in place to make the business work more efficiently.’

UK law usually dictates how long consultation processes take. Usually, for companies with more than 100 affected people, you have to have a 90-day consultation by law, whereas if it’s a single redundancy then it’s a ‘reasonable consultation’ that might take something closer to four weeks. ‘It’s frustrating for people as it can feel like a long time – but the reason it takes so long is that it’s still a proposal at the initial stage,’ Catherine says. ‘When you enter into consultation you haven’t made the final decision at that point that the role is redundant, it’s an option you have to tell employees as part of the information and consultation regulation. Having a long time allows you to give all the affected individuals the information that they need, and perhaps offer them a suitable alternative if there is one.’

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