This post provides guidance on how to tell employees about redundancy and the communications required in a redundancy process. The communications include how you communicate to those employees at risk of redundancy as well as those employees who aren’t.
The type and timing of communications used during redundancy are heavily influenced by the nature of the organisation: companies with a small, close knit workforce will require a different communication approach to a large organisation where redundancies are just being considered in a single department.
Therefore, rather than being prescriptive, what we’re aiming to achieve with this post is to help you consider what type of communication approach will work for you and help you to avoid some pitfalls.
If you’re looking for more general information about redundancy, then we’d suggest that you start with our Detailed Guide to Redundancy for Employers. The guide gives you an overview of the entire redundancy process and the things that you should be thinking about in a redundancy situation.
The areas covered by this post are:
1. Communicating With Employees Who Are at Risk of Redundancy
This is always the first conversation
Clearly, the first people that you’re going to speak with regarding what is happening within the business are those people who will be directly impacted.
Typically, you’ll pull everyone together who will be placed at risk of redundancy and do a single announcement. This initial conversation will open consultation with those individuals who are at risk of redundancy and it’s likely to set the tone for the entire consultation process. It’s very important to get it right.
Our top tips when it comes to having this initial conversation are as follows:
- Plan what you’re going to say. It’s likely that you’re going to be feeling anxious about making the announcement so having at least the opening few sentences planned and written down in front of you is a good idea. Personally, I’d recommend having the entire script ready as that should help you stay on track.
- Be you. When people are navigating a redundancy process they can be so concerned about saying something that may cause legal issues later, that they start to speak in a way they wouldn’t usually. This can be unsettling for employees and if you appear uncomfortable and awkward then this is going to contribute to them feeling uncomfortable and awkward. Try to be you and speak as you would normally.
- Be empathetic – it’s not about you. Don’t be tempted to share how difficult you’re finding the process personally. Announcing potential redundancies is a horrible thing to do but hearing you’re at risk of redundancy is far worse.
- Keep it short – as soon as people hear that they are at risk of redundancy they are unlikely to take in much more of what you say. You’ll have plenty of opportunity throughout the consultation process to provide the detail, and you must provide the detail in order for the consultation process to be meaningful, but don’t try to share too much in the first meeting. Following the initial announcement, you’ll hold individual consultation meetings with everyone, and you can share the additional information then.
- Pick your words carefully. This is very, very important. You should be consulting your employees before you’ve made any decisions. You are consulting your employees on what you’re thinking about doing so that they have the opportunity to comment on those proposals and present ideas and suggestions as to how the redundancies could be avoided. Therefore, when you’re communicating don’t make an announcement of “We’re going to be making some redundancies”. That type of announcement will cause you legal issues as you move forward as it can be used as evidence that the consultation was not meaningful as you’d already made your decision. The announcement is typically more along the lines of setting out what problem it is that you need to address (a need to reduce costs, a need to change the skill set/structure of a department) and that you’re going to be entering into a consultation process to discuss the ways that this problem could be addressed. You then explain that it is possible that the changes may result in redundancies, but the consultation process is there to explore alternatives.
- Set a collaborative tone. The consultation process is two way and trying to build a sense of involvement and inclusion rather than “this is going to happen to you” can be useful.
2. Communicating With Employees Who Are Not at Risk of Redundancy
Deciding what you announce to the rest of the organisation, and when you announce it, is going to be largely driven by your culture, the size of your company, and the scale of the changes.
There are a few things for you to remember:
- Communication should be done on a need-to-know basis in the early stages of the process. If you’re a large organisation looking to make changes in a small department then a company-wide announcement around potential redundancies will likely do more harm than good. If, however, the potential redundancies have an impact on a significant percentage of your workforce then not letting the company know what is happening is likely to just fuel rumour and speculation. You may want to put out a simple announcement that the company is considering making some changes/headcount reduction in a certain area of the business and you’re emailing to make people aware that some team members are now going through a consultation process. This will then allow colleagues to be sensitive towards the challenges that people in a particular department will be dealing with.
- Only communicate what you need to. If you’re just dealing with one or two redundancies then you’re best to say nothing whilst the process is ongoing. Be ready to deal with any employees who come to you with questions but we wouldn’t suggest an announcement.
- Remember your duty of confidentiality. Individuals react differently to being put at risk of redundancy. Some will be happy for their colleagues to know whilst others will prefer to keep it themselves. If you do feel that you need to make some form of company announcement, let those who are at-risk of redundancy know that this is what you’re going to do so that they are prepared for any questions that come their way.
- Be ready for questions if you do make an announcement, and the top of everyone’s list will be “Will you be making more redundancies?” and the answer shouldn’t be a categoric “No”. When you don’t think there’ll be more redundancies our suggested answer is “at this point in time there are no plans to make further redundancies”. This way, if something unexpected happens then you’re not going to deal with the accusation of “you said there wouldn’t be more redundancies”.
3. Communication Regarding the Outcome of the Redundancy Process
(Do I announce those who have been made redundant to the remaining employees?)
Our suggestion is that you follow what you would normally do when someone leaves your organisation.
If you would usually send around a company wide email to confirm “Bob will be leaving us today and we’d like to thank him for his contribution to the company” then you should do the same thing in a redundancy situation. If you wouldn’t do that, then don’t.
You don’t need to say why someone is leaving.
If you’d usually take leavers out for lunch/drinks, then do that. You should be aiming to help the employee end their employment with dignity.
Manager’s Guide to Redundancies
Read our comprehensive guide to redundancies providing overview of redundancy requirements for UK employers and detailed insights into key activities and decisions.