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In Depth: How to cope with redundancy

Redundancy can be a scary word no matter which stage you are in your career, but the important this is to keep a clear head and concentrate on the future. A bit of research into your rights and your employer’s responsibilities can really pay off at this stressful time and leave you feeling a little more in control of the situation.

Read more: Dealing with redundancy: advice, support and resources >>

So, you’ve been made redundant. You feel like the walls are closing in; you’ve taken the news more personally than you thought you would; you now have no idea where you career is heading; your confidence has taken a severe hit and all this and now having to go and find yourself another job. However, all is not lost.

The first thing to get out of the way is that it’s not ‘you’ that’s been made redundant. Your role has been made redundant. This won’t be a decision made by your employer based on a personal level. In fact, this move would’ve come as a result of the failings of your employer, who is now perhaps restructuring the business, downsizing, or worse still, closing its doors. It shouldn’t reflect your competency at your job so don’t let that deter you from finding a new position and excelling at it.

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Your rights

Your employer will be legally obliged to adhere to certain procedures when it comes to making redundancies. This includes ensuring the selection process, from top to bottom, is as fair and objective as possible. If you are facing the misfortune of being made redundant then you should also receive an explanation in writing and that the job losses are not just a smokescreen for your employer to dismiss certain individuals.

If your soon-to-be former employer doesn’t follow proper procedures, then you should explore your right to sue them for unfair dismissal — you could, in fact, be in line to receive up to 90 days’ pay in compensation.

If you are facing redundancy within a particularly large organisation and there are 20 or more individuals facing the boot, then your employer must consult your union or the employee representative before staff are given notice. You should also be consulted individually by your employer; if this does not happen, then again you have grounds for unfair dismissal.

Don’t burn your bridges

It may seem hard not to, but try not to burn your bridges with your former employer. Not only is this crucial for your own general well-being as you head off to look for another job, but if you keep a positive relationship with them they could potentially do wonders for your career further down the line.
Connections are everything in the business world and with the evolution of social media in business, more and more people are connected — whether they’ve actually met or not!

Leaving on a good note also means it shouldn’t feel too awkward asking your former employer for a referral for the job hunting phase. Be proactive and don’t be shy asking them for references and recommendations.
Tap into all of your contacts and networks to improve your chances of finding a new position. Update your CV and refresh your interview techniques. Do not necessarily take the first job offer that comes along unless you are sure it is the best option.

When it comes to discussing your former employer, remember to speak fondly and positively about them. Don’t criticise them during an interview for a new job. Nothing leaves a bad taste in an interviewer's mouth as much as a potential job candidate trashing the name of their old boss. They may see you as a potential bad influence on their current team and also, what’s to say you won’t say the same about them?

Frame what happened with your redundancy in a positive light during interviews, along the lines of ‘if the redundancy didn’t happen then I wouldn’t have been given this great opportunity to interview for this role’.

Money worries?

If you are concerned about your redundancy terms you should check your employment contract and staff handbook and consult your staff association or union.

When you are subsequently made redundant with a smaller payout than expected, you can claim breach of contract at an employment tribunal.

Alternatively, you can take civil action against your former employer for breach of contract through the County or High Court. Whilst perhaps costly, you might argue your integrity remains intact.

Some people with long careers at just one company may leave with handsome handshakes, but many will not. Careful planning to make your money stretch as far as possible is never more important than when you are facing the prospect of unemployment.

What about your company pension?

It is vital that you don’t forget any pension you may have through your previous employer. If you are in a group personal plan, you can usually take it with you. If it is a company-run final salary or money purchase scheme, the money can remain in the pension until you draw it.
Depending on your age, companies making redundancies can sometimes turn it into early retirement instead. With that said, a redundancy, depending on your situation, can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.