Dear (HR) diary …
Thursday 9th July and I’ve just finished some sensitive work with one of our favourite clients that I believe will be of interest to small businesses dealing with economic difficulties as a result of Covid19 – dealing with a complex set of redundancies where the goalposts were moving all the time and where they needed careful support to navigate the existing redundancy legislation as well as incorporating rules about furlough, notice and annual leave. Presenting this like a diary will take you through the last few weeks …
Day one: the call
The client company (a retail outlet with small cafe and bakery who, prior to March 2020 also had a thriving outside catering and home delivery service) call me and tell me how bad things are, how the majority of their staff are on furlough and how they know they need to do something – but not sure what, or to what extent. The husband and wife owners sound like they are at the end of their ideas and need some other input. They want to do the best by their 32 strong team, but don’t know where to start. We work together to identify what information they need to collate (sales figures, projections, client orders etc and regroup the next morning).
Day two: Voluntary redundancy applications
Decided to do it this way first, to see if there were any people interested in being made redundant – this would save money and let the client work out how much more (if any) needed to be found. Made sure that there was no commitment to agreeing to any applications, just in case the people with the skills they are going to need applied. Letters sent out to all staff, including the ones on furlough, off sick and one man who was on shared adoption leave. They’ve got a week to reply .
Day fourteen: First departures
Two people in the largest team – bakers and sandwich/buffet makers – with long term health issues requested redundancy so over the last week we went through the required consultations, gave them the chance to find out what they would receive and the impact on their pension. I think they were quite relieved in the end. One returned to furlough to see out his notice and annual leave and one who was only receiving Statutory Sick Pay received a payment in lieu of this. Advised on whether all of these payments should be at 80% or 100% and whether tax was payable. Redundancy letters produced using our standard templates with a bit of tweaking.
Day 22 : Next steps
Monday morning and over the weekend the owners have been doing their research and calculations – meeting with the accountant this morning and me this afternoon. Looking into how much the business needs to recoup to move forward, their likely sales for the future (weddings are cancelled and even funeral buffets are not being ordered!) and the additional costs of making all parts of the business premise covid safe. Even taking into account the two people who have already left, they need to make savings that amount to around a quarter of posts , affecting all teams. Spent the afternoon discussing what structure they will need and writing their consultation document – good news is that there is a need for an additional driver as the amount of deliveries has gone up. Probably only a temporary role, though …
Day 24 Group Consultation meeting
All staff were invited – they held the meeting at the end of the day in the car park, to socially distance. I was there on zoom on someone’s iphone! We’d put so much detail into the consultation document that the meeting was actually really easy, which was great, as the owners were both so nervous. A week until the close of written feedback and then another week for us to get the individual meetings with at risk staff done.
Day 30 Close of written feedback
Loads of feedback has been received – most people understand the situation. Questions and answers all typed up and a letter going out tomorrow to share all of the feedback and remind people about the end of consultation. Used the template we have on file (again).
Day 37 End of individual consultation meetings
Have almost lost count of the number of individual meetings that have been held – all on zoom for me (so I can do other work in between meetings without travelling to the client) and many where the employees have also (at their request) been on zoom. This is definitely popular for those who have been on furlough. One meeting there was also a union representative on a separate zoom, with all of us positioned around the office on different laptops and phones! Client used the template form for each meeting and also make sure that we didn’t miss anything. I feel so bad for some people who are really worried about the future – most of all the owners, who seem to be taking everyone else’s problems on as well as their own. Now need to support them in considering the feedback and making their decisions .
Day 39 Selection decisions
Thank goodness the criteria for selecting staff was agreed with everyone at the meetings. That made it easier to score them (we used disciplinary record, attendance, timekeeping and skill level that we’d got from appraisals earlier in the year) – although telling them the results probably won’t be …
Day 42 Outcome decisions
Today was difficult. Staff selected for redundancy had one last chance to come up with ideas to prevent their redundancy before their employer reluctantly had to give notice. Our template made it easier for them to make sure they had covered everything in this final meeting – imagine if they missed something essential in all of the emotion that was going on! Those people not selected were also told (yes, we have a template for this!) and one bit of really good news – one of the at risk people who knew that his skills were not as good as others is planning on retiring in six months so was happy to take a temporary role as a driver as alternative employment until we can work out if that part of the business is going to continue at its current level. Had a glass of wine tonight.
Day 43 – today
Letters all went out this morning, after final checks of the figures for both redundancy and notice, double checks on whether people should get 80% or 100% for their notice and allocating leave during their notice where possible. Didn’t want to get it wrong at this stage.
I’m confident that these unfortunate decisions in this unprecedented time have been carried out as fairly as they could have been, in line with procedures and legal requirements and where everyone has been treated with respect. There have been some tears along the way, but the owners can, I think, sleep well knowing they did the right thing in the right way. And hopefully they can now build up their business again and look to the future.
If you’re looking for support on redundancy, restructuring or just want to access our templates or our redundancy pack, please either get in touch with your named Consultant , call us on (01206) 700690 or email email@example.com