by Magnus Shaw
Throughout this increasingly insane financial crisis I have worked as a freelance. Disadvantage: I have to find my own work and therefore income. Advantage: I can't be made redundant.
However, I have faced the redundancy roller-coaster three times and the likelihood of it hitting friends and family has rarely been greater. I sincerely hope nobody who reads the Creativepool columns is touched by the redundancy stick, but realistically, I guess some will be. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to share a few hints and tips, based on my own experiences.
1. Don't panic.
Whether you're suspicious or not, the day of redundancy always brings surprise and dismay. Completely understandable, but do your best to keep a level head and a lid on your emotions (at least for now). You'll need to absorb a lot of information, quite rapidly and establish exactly where you stand. Don't get drunk - you can do that once the vital stuff is out of the way. Don't get angry - it will make it harder to understand the details and will not change anything. Don't plead or beg - the announcement is almost certainly the result of intensive decision making and is very rarely reversible.
2. Are you sure this is redundancy?
Technically a person cannot be made redundant - only a job. The distinction is important because, while your employer may no longer have any need for your role, it doesn't necessarily follow they have no need for you. So, when the bad news lands, be sure to establish this is redundancy. If it is, you have rights and options - some of which may result in you avoiding unemployment. However, if you are being dismissed, the situation is rather different. You still have protections but your status isn't the same.
3. What to expect.
Having established you are definitely undergoing redundancy, your employer should now roll out some mandatory procedures. You should be in receipt of a letter explaining that your role is under threat and you are being entered into a consultation process. If 20 or fewer people are affected, your employer must engage in a one-to-one consultation with you; 20 or more and it may be a group activity. The point of the consultation is to allow you to influence the outcome of the redundancy.
During this process, your employer must discuss the possibility of redeployment with you. This is just a management word for 'finding you another job in the company'. Should this be a possibility (and it may not be), you are under no obligation to accept a new position - although turning it down may disqualify you from redundancy payments. Any alternative role should be a reasonable replacement and you are free to negotiate the nature of the post and its rewards. Around this stage, you will also be told of the redundancy package on offer. As long as you have been in continuous employment with the company, and you are not being redeployed, the firm must provide:
- 0.5 week's pay for each full year of service where your age was under 22
- 1 week's pay for each full year of service where your age was 22 or above, but under 41
- 1.5 week's pay for each full year of service where your age was 41 or above
These details are explored in full here: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/RedundancyAndLeavingYourJob/Redundancy/DG_174330
With a bit of luck your employer will offer you more than the legal minimum - if they don't, you can always ask for more. The company is entitled to refuse you, but it has worked for me!
The consultation must take place within a 90 day period and the redundancy should be completed by then.
4. A little known advantage.
There is a middle ground between redeployment and redundancy and it works very well. I only discovered the choice when an ailing agency offered it and I'm delighted to bring it to your attention. It's known as 'agreed severance' (or similar) and essentially takes the form of a legal agreement between you and the company, stating both parties agree to go separate ways and, as gesture of goodwill, the firm will be paying you a sum of money.
The total payout can be any amount and is negotiable between you and your employer. It is completely tax free and less bound up legislation. The company must fund a meeting between you and lawyer to examine the terms of the severance and there is a cooling off period to decide whether you are happy with the offer. This is a much more convenient and lucrative process and is particularly effective if you are the only employee involved in redundancy.
5. The emotional fallout.
Perhaps the most uncomfortable aspect of redundancy is the perverse mix of cold, hard facts and raw human feelings. No matter how many times you are told it is your post being eliminated not you personally, the sensation of rejection is palpable and undeniable. Redundancy is a lot like being dumped by a lover and, just the same, it's going to take a while to recover. Accept that. You are perfectly entitled to be royally pissed off and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
If you're mad, get mad (as the song has it). But don't unleash all hell on your employer, your colleagues or anyone else. Instead, fall back on your tried and tested stress relievers - go for a ridiculously long run, listen to all the Motorhead albums, draw something, write something. Have a fag, have a little cry. But avoid excessive drug or alcohol use, they tend to make things worse. If you have a partner, or even children, remember this event will be alarming and upsetting to them too. Take the time to explain to them what you know, what the outcome is likely to be and discuss the implications for both or all of you. Do your very best not to take out your disappointment and frustration on those closest to you. You may well need their practical and moral support for a while.
6. Looking ahead.
You probably won't believe it at the time, but redundancy is a cruel, harsh but short-lived crisis. Within a relatively brief period of time, you will be engaged in something new. There'll be new people, new challenges, new achievements and you won't dwell on this rotten development every day. The period between all this bad stuff and the start of the new stuff could be tough as old leather, money may be scarce and daytime TV gets tired pretty quickly. But don't let the water close over your head. Take the chance to buff up your portfolio (it's never been more crucial), start marketing yourself as a freelance (keeps you in the game, could bring in some handy funds and may be the best route to a new job), explore some of those ideas you've been storing up (all creatives have them). Above all, don't be too hard on yourself. Everybody is vulnerable to this nasty turn of events and you just caught a bad break.
I was made redundant three weeks before I got married and a week after an operation on my kidney. It still wasn't the worst thing that ever happened to me and enabled me to do a host work I would never have done otherwise. Stay strong.
If you have been made redundant (or are likely to be) and would like to ask me something, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant.
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