As the nation continues to wrestle against the economy's difficulties, about 130,000 workers in the UK are taking voluntary redundancy or being made redundant every three months (as at October 2013).
To help employers manage in these tough times, Acas now offers two guides.
The way an employer handles redundancies varies depending on the number of staff it is proposing to make redundant. Broadly, the law makes different demands of employers depending on whether they are proposing to make 20 or more staff redundant, or fewer than 20.
A legal decision about how groups of staff in different "establishments" in an organisation are counted for redundancy purposes is currently being challenged in the courts. The outcome may mean advice will change in the future - Acas guidance will be updated when we have clarity following a legal judgement on the challenge.
In the meantime, the Acas Advisory booklet - Handling large-scale (collective) redundancies [508kb] will offer some clarity for employers, employee representatives and employees where 20 or more employees may lose their jobs, the impact of case law and what common sense recommends.
The second guide, Handling small-scale redundancies is aimed at employers where fewer than 20 staff are at risk of redundancy. Using a step by step approach, this guide covers the legal basics, explores alternatives to redundancy, and takes employers through the process they need to follow to be fair and stay within the law in this situation.
The second guide is an addition to Acas' Help for small firms series of online tools, but, of course, can also be used by large organisations considering making fewer than 20 staff redundant.
Research commissioned by Acas focuses on a crucial part of downsizing and restructuring often overlooked and misunderstood by employers - the roles of the people who break the bad news about job losses and help shape how the company will look and operate afterwards.
The study, Downsizing envoys: A public/private sector comparison [278kb] has produced key advice to help employers understand better the role of the tellers, or redundancy envoys as they are called in the research.
The Acas Advisory booklet - Handling large-scale (collective) redundancies [508kb] places the role of the teller within the overall context of managing redundancies effectively. It includes information on why it is so important employers think carefully about who does the telling and how they support them.
Watch our video Breaking bad news at work - The role of the redundancy envoy
The video offers employers practical advice to help managers deal with the emotions, tensions and difficult decisions of downsizing.
It includes interviews with Adrian Wakeling, Acas senior guidance editor, and Dr Ian Ashman from the Institute for Research into Organisation, Work and Employment at the University of Central Lancashire's Business School. Dr Ashman studied the experiences of envoys, or tellers as they are also called, across the public and private sectors for Acas.
Questions and Answers
Who are the tellers?
A line manager, HR executive or senior manager. The first big hurdle is the opening meeting to tell staff jobs may go. Then follows a process which can go on for weeks, with more tense meetings and challenging one-to-ones over who will leave. The tellers will liaise with those being made redundant and support them through a tough time.
Why are the tellers so important?
How well the tellers handle the role can determine whether the redundancy process becomes more difficult, or goes more smoothly than expected. It can also affect how staff staying feel about taking the organisation forward and how it performs in the future.
Why is the role so difficult?
Tellers expect a difficult time from employees at risk. Yet even so, many still struggle to cope with the range of emotion they face and must confront, sometimes over many weeks, on top of very long hours.
Also, it can be complicated being the link between employees at risk - explaining how the company's plans could affect them and dealing with the emotions involved - and then reporting back to the organisation's top-level decision makers.
Do you need additional help?
Acas also offers other booklets and advice if your organisation is facing redundancies, which include:
- Employee communications and consultation
- Advisory booklet - How to manage change
- Challenging conversations and how to manage them
- Contracts of employment
- Information and consultation of employees (ICE)
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Acas runs courses to give managers and employment relations specialists skills needed in organisations facing redundancies on:
- Redundancy and restructuring
- Having difficult conversations
- Managing change
- Working effectively with trade unions
- Takeovers and mergers (TUPE)
Acas can tailor training for organisations and deliver it at their sites so it focuses on their own circumstances, policies and procedures.
Let us know how Acas can help you by using our online enquiry form, or call our customer services team on 0300 123 1150.
Download the research paper, Downsizing envoys: A public/private sector comparison [278kb]. The report is by Dr Ian Ashman, from the University of Central Lancashire.
The statistic on the number of workers taking voluntary redundancy or being made redundant every three months comes from the Office for National Statistics. It covers the 12 months to May, 2012.