An intensely challenging year that was characterised by uncertainty and chaos, waving goodbye to 2020 felt like a huge relief for many people.
Yet as we all know, the economic fallout is far from over. According to a recent People Management article, there were more than 800,000 UK job losses since the start of the pandemic, as companies of all shapes and sizes struggled to stay afloat.
The good news is that with an extension of the job retention scheme, not to mention the promise of a Covid vaccination schedule, there is hope on the horizon for 2021.
However, last summer ACAS reported that redundancy-related calls had "shot up by 160%" from 2019. Further restructuring – and redundancies – will be unavoidable for many organisations as the year unfolds, creating a landscape of further insecurity.
Amidst such heightened anxiety about the job market and our general wellbeing, the way organisations choose to approach and implement their restructuring plans matters more now than ever before.
Here are some tips on how to carry out the process with both confidence, and much-needed compassion.
1. Don't panic
The pandemic has wreaked unprecedented change, often at lightning speed. For many business owners, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to make rushed restructuring decisions in an attempt to keep up.
Yet taking some time to plan and think through the impact of the changes you are about to make, will help to instil confidence about how they will work in practice.
Proper planning also ensures that you will be better equipped to answer questions, discuss a potentially wider range of solutions (such as creative re-deployment or reducing working hours, rather than redundancy) and ensure that those affected have access to the right support.
2. Act with thought and care
A recent CIPD report on limiting the impact of necessary redundancies states that "companies (don't succeed) when they implement redundancies as a knee-jerk reaction without considering the human factor."
This means that the way you choose to communicate your restructuring plans could make all the difference to how well they are received.
Put as much thought and care into your communications as you can, ensuring they are consistent, regular, inclusive, and that they allow your people sufficient time to ask questions and air their concerns.
If redundancies are unavoidable, be aware that sensitive conversations may have to be held online. Ensure you have the right technology in place, and that your managers are trained to facilitate these conversations in an honest and compassionate manner.
These are intense and stressful times, so bear in mind that your managers may need additional wellbeing support outside of work, such as access to counselling services, where appropriate.
3. Follow the correct legal procedure
It can be tempting to think that, since working practices and conditions have shifted out of previous recognition for many organisations, employment law has shifted accordingly.
But this is not the case. You will still be expected to show that you have followed due procedure when making redundancies, which amongst other issues involves facilitating the appropriate consultation, and using clear, fair selection criteria (for which additional pandemic-related considerations include taking care not to disadvantage furloughed workers.)
The CIPD website offers a detailed selection of coronavirus-related resources for employers, which includes a downloadable redundancy guide for further information about how to restructure fairly and compassionately during the pandemic.
If you would like to discuss your plans in detail, with professional advice directly tailored to your organisation, our expert team at Viridian HR are on hand to answer your questions. Please contact us for a confidential chat.