Acas uses cookies to ensure we give you the best experience and to make the site simpler. Find out more about cookies.

Website URL : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2143

Managing in difficult times

The current global financial crisis has many local impacts for both employers and employees. With hundreds of headlines threatening uncertainty you may be finding it difficult to know what to do.

If you are an employer and your business is struggling, you may be considering cutting back on your workforce. But coping in difficult times is as much about taking stock as it is about taking action.

If you are an employee, you may be worried about how your employer will react to the economic downturn and how that will affect you.

How can Acas help?

Employers

Acas can help you to understand legislation and explore the options available to support you through difficult economic times. Along with this guidance page, we have produced an advisory&nbsp with service and contact information.

Acas training

Should your business be affected by the economic downturn, know your options and make an informed choice. We run a variety of useful courses aimed at helping businesses during this time, for example:

Acas, in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) have produced guidance on how to manage your workforce during this time. Further information is available from the CIPD Ten Top tips for managing in a recession.

Question and answers

What can I do to help myself during a recession?

Even in a recession employers need skilled employees. You can help yourself keep your old job or get a new one by:

  • Agreeing clear objectives with your manager and doing your best to achieve them
  • Developing your skills and competences by taking advantage of opportunities for, carrying out new tasks, training and further education.

My employers want to change my contract - can they do this?

Your contract can be changed by mutual agreement between you and your employer. Where you don't agree to a change, it is possible your employers may terminate your original contract, with proper notice and by following any relevant procedures. They may then offer you a new contract including the revised terms. There will be no breach of contract as a result of taking this action. If you accept the new contract your continuity of employment is preserved.

Your employers must give you the notice specified (or implied) in your contract, or the minimum statutory notice period, whichever is the longer.

Under the law the termination will be regarded as a dismissal and providing you are eligible you may claim unfair dismissal before an employment tribunal. This is true whether you refuse to accept the new contract and leave, or are dismissed under the old contract and re-engaged?

How should my employer be selecting employees for redundancy?

Your employer should be using objective criteria wherever possible, precisely defined and capable of being applied in an independent way, when selecting employees for redundancy. This is to ensure that they are not selected unfairly. The chosen criteria should be consistently applied by all employers, irrespective of size. There should also be an appeals procedure.

Examples of such criteria:

  • attendance record (if this is fully accurate and reasons for and extent of absence are known)
  • disciplinary record (if this is fully accurate)
  • skills or experience
  • standard of work performance
  • aptitude for work

Formal qualifications and advanced skills should be considered, but not in isolation.

How much notice of termination must I get?

Both you and your employer are normally entitled to a minimum period of notice of termination of employment. After one month's employment, you must give your employer at least one week's notice; this minimum is unaffected by longer service. Your employer must give you:

  • at least one week's notice after one month's employment
  • two weeks after two years
  • three weeks after three years and so on up to 12 weeks after 12 years or more

However, you and your employer will be entitled to a longer period of notice than the statutory minimum if this is provided for in the contract of employment.

Most employees, subject to certain conditions, are entitled to certain payments during the statutory notice period. You can waive your right to notice or to payment in lieu of notice. Your employer can also waive their right to notice.

How do I manage during a recession?

Acas and the CIPD have put together a top tip guide for managing during a recession, including how best to:

  • Think long term
  • Maintain employee engagement
  • Strengthen line management capability
  • Support employees' health and well being
  • Think about ways to avoid redundancies
  • Consult with your workforce and employee reps
  • Establish fair and objective criteria for redundancies that will help you retain key people
  • Help redundant employees to find other work
  • Plan for the future

For the complete top tip guide, see the Acas/CIPD guidance page.

Should I have policies in place to manage a downturn in business?

Even if you are not currently experiencing a downturn, now is the time to get your policies and procedures agreed and in place.

Remember that among other things arrangements should include:

  • ways of avoiding job losses
  • consultation with trade union or elected employee representatives
  • communication arrangements
  • fair redundancy selection criteria
  • consideration of alternative employment
  • redundancy pay and notice arrangements.

Are there legal implications for handling business reorganisation?

You must comply with the law on handling redundancies or when transferring a business. There are legal requirements for:

  • consulting with your workforce
  • seeking to avoid job losses
  • fair redundancy selection criteria
  • continuity of employment when employees are transferred from one business to another
  • provisions for laying-off employees or short time working
  • varying a contract

How do I change an employee's contract of employment?

Wherever possible this should be done by mutual agreement. Where agreement is not possible you can consider terminating the original contract, with proper notice and following any relevant procedures. You may then offer a new contract to the employee, including the revised terms. There will be no breach of contract as a result of taking this action. If the employee accepts the new contract, continuity of employment is preserved.

You must give notice as specified (or implied) in the employee's contract, or the minimum statutory notice period, whichever is the longer.

Under the law the termination will be regarded as a dismissal and it will be open to all eligible employees to claim unfair dismissal before an employment tribunal - whether they refuse to accept the new contract and leave, or are dismissed under the old contract and re-engaged?

Why should I invest in training and development for staff when my organisation is short of money?

Leadership skills, clear communication and employee engagement are of critical importance in a recession. A motivated workforce with clear objectives can support the organisation through a downturn and prepare the foundations for recovery.

If I need to make redundancies, how should I consult with staff and their representatives?

Details of the consultation arrangements with any trade union or employee representatives can be found in our advisory booklet, Redundancy Handling.

How do I select employees for redundancy?

You should try wherever possible to use objective criteria, precisely defined and capable of being applied in an independent way, when selecting employees for redundancy. This is to ensure that they are not selected unfairly. The chosen criteria must be consistently applied and be objective, fair and consistent. Basing your selection on skills or qualification will help you to keep a balanced workforce appropriate to your organisation's future needs. You should also establish an appeals procedure.

Examples of such criteria:

  • attendance record (you should ensure this is fully accurate and that reasons for and extent of absence are known)
  • disciplinary record (you should ensure this is fully accurate)
  • skills or experience
  • standard of work performance
  • aptitude for work

Formal qualifications and advance skills should be considered, but not in isolation.

How much notice of termination must I give my employees?

Both you and your employees are normally entitled to a minimum period of notice of termination of employment. After one month's employment, employees must give you at least one week's notice; this minimum is unaffected by longer service. You must give employees:

  • at least one week's notice after one month's employment
  • two weeks after two years
  • three weeks after three years and so on up to 12 weeks after 12 years or more

However, you and your employees will be entitled to a longer period of notice than the statutory minimum if this is provided for in the contract of employment.

Most employees, subject to certain conditions, are entitled to certain payments during the statutory notice period. Employees can waive their right to notice or to payment in lieu of notice. You can also waive your own right to notice.

Acas business solutions

Our business solutions can help identify the options available to any business facing a downturn in activity. Options are not just limited to redundancy and our advisors will help explore what might fit your particular situation, including for instance how best to approach varying contracts, short time or temporary changes to working patterns, lay-offs and restructuring, including changing patterns of work and responsibilities.

Early consultation with your employees is pivotal to success, and our advisors can help guide you through this process so that you can find the best way forward for both them and you.

By being aware of all the options available to you before you need to make decisions, you will help your business and improve employee relations.

See our Training and Business Solutions page to view the full range of ways we can help you through difficult economic times.

Employees

Acas can offer assistance in understanding your employment rights and advice on how you can help yourself.

See the following pages for useful information to help you through the current economic downturn:

Acas and Times Online bring you two exclusive podcasts on redundancy You can find further advice on the Guardian website's 'redundancy clinic', where top experts, including Stewart Gee from Acas, answer some of the difficult questions employees may be faced with during this time.

Drinkaware.co.uk Drinkaware's guide to getting back into work and staying healthy.

Helpful tips on keeping focused and getting back into work and coping with redundancy. For further information visit Drinkaware.co.uk/redundancy.

Regional advice for employees and employers

Click on the links below to find out how Acas and its regional partners can offer local help during this period.

Acas Helpline

Call our Helpline on 0300 123 1100 for free support and advice or to check your workplace policies and practices. The Acas Helpline provides free and impartial advice for employers, employees and representatives on a range of employment relations, employment rights, HR and management issues.

Some feedback about our Helpline from users:

"Acas is invaluable. We have had lots of HR issues and nobody else to ask."

"Everything that I have asked Acas on the Helpline, they have informed us correctly and in full."

Helpline number: 0300 123 1100
Monday-Friday: 8am-8pm and Saturday 9am-1pm

View further information about our Helpline service, including our new Helpline Online on the Acas Helpline page.

TUPE 2014 - Practical training on what's changed
Acas Helpline - call us for free advice on 0300 123 1100
Your details: news and notifications
Customer contact form