HR struggles: What to say when making someone redundant

Did you know that nearly 1 in 5 employers plan to let staff go in the next year? 

Recent studies from Acas and YouGov have reported that 30% of large companies are likely to lay off some of their staff compared to just 10% of small and medium companies.

There’s no getting away from it, making someone redundant is awful. For many managers, this is the worst part of their job. And the worst part of the process is not knowing how the employee is going to react. For example, the person could be grateful after actively seeking redundancy to move on to a different venture but the hardest people to deal with are the ones that had no idea it was coming and they don’t want it. 

When delivering the redundancy news, it’s important to understand how the employee may be feeling. Initially, they may take it personally. They may even panic. For many people, redundancy has a big impact on their life, financially, personally and emotionally. 

It’s important to remain compassionate throughout the process.

In this article, we are going to give you some tips on how to handle making someone redundant as empathically and professionally as possible. 

First, make sure you understand the redundancy rules 

Before you speak to any of the staff, you have to make sure you understand the redundancy processes. You will also need to talk to company directors to make sure you fully understand the business decision to do this. Once the decision is made, it falls to the managers or HR teams to carry out the redundancy process. 

As soon as the decision is made, you need to inform the wider business as soon as possible. The 3 key steps in making someone redundant, is you must prepare, communicate and understand. You are legally required to warn your staff and union of any planned redundancies. But often it’s all in the communication.

Click here to see the legal process of redundancy. 

Tips for announcing redundancy 

To make sure you are as prepared as possible, it’s worth putting together a redundancy announcement script. But try and make it as natural and emphatic as possible rather than reading straight from it. 

Here are some tips for how to announce redundancy to a group or individual: 

Create a clear communication plan 

Keep your message clear and simple. Do not overcomplicate it or be too wordy. Work out what you’re going to say beforehand and stick to that script. 

Make sure they don’t learn the news beforehand 

Act quickly once the decision has been made from the top. Often employees can sense that something is wrong. So, there may be a nervous atmosphere. The employees being made redundant must be the ones to know first, so it’s essential to tell them before any gossip gets out. 

Prepare and practise 

Preparation is key! Make sure you rehearse what you are going to say until you are fully comfortable with the words and how you will deliver them. 

Don’t hide, be visible 

The worst thing you can do is deliver the news and run. As much as you may want to. You need to be seen and available. There will be a lot of emotions running high and a lot of questions. Make sure you are ready to deal with that.

Show empathy and compassion 

Remember this is a big deal. Whilst you can remain professional, you can also be human. Offering kind words and empathy will go a long way. 

Give them resources to assist them 

Give them resources like Citizens Advice. You can also get a wide range of information and help on CIPD to help your employee understand their rights and what to do next.

Be prepared for different reactions 

Not everyone will react in the same way. It can be anything from grateful to emotional to angry. Just ensure that you remain respectful and calm throughout. 

Give clear timelines 

During the redundancy consultation meeting, you should give them an end date. This way they can start the process of moving on quicker.

Try not to do it before the weekend or a holiday 

The employee or employees will likely need to lean on their team for emotional support during this time. By doing this at the weekend or start of a holiday you risk making them feel isolated with this. 

Don’t make them keep it a secret 

Like the above point. They need support. You shouldn’t ask them to keep it a secret. 

Look after yourself too

It is an arduous process, that can be mentally draining. You need to make sure you look after yourself too. Ask for support if you need it. 

Getting it wrong is bad for business 

It’s unlikely you’ll read a news story about a redundancy gone well, but you will hear about it when it’s done wrong. Of course, one particular big company has been blasted by the press recently for their handling of multiple redundancies. 

Or this company that hit the headlines after a series of bad handlings, from sending severance checks before employees were told to hiding from them and leaving them in the dark. 

Be compassionate 

On a personal note as someone who has been made redundant twice. It’s all in the delivery. The first time I was made redundant, I was emotional. The HR manager broke out of professional mode and hugged me. They were kind and informative and took their time with me.

The second time, was when a company was dissolving, and the manager was very matter-of-fact and dismissive. It was cold and quick, I was just the 5th employee out of 20 employees to let go that day. I was given no information on the next steps and was asked to leave immediately. 

Both times, I was left with a sense of rejection, embarrassment and fear of what to do next. 

But in the first instance, I was given guidance, compassion and a support network to help me through it. The second one left me very shaken, overwhelmed and lost. Even today, both those experiences have stuck with me. 

For so many people that are made redundant, it can turn your world upside down. Understanding and really caring about what that individual is going through changes everything. 

So you as an employer can really make a difference in someone’s experience in the way that you act and deliver your message. 

It’s tough, but by leading with empathy, compassion and kindest you can change the employee experience when it comes to redundancy. 

Many employees will take to sites like Breakroom to find new jobs and to rate their employer. If you want to stay on top of this, claim your profile, so that you can manage your account and see what your employees are saying about your business.  Click here to claim your profile today.

Published on 28 April 2022