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Redundancy--breaking the news.

[check] This checklist provides guidance to all line managers who find themselves responsible for informing employees that their job is to be terminated.

The fact that there are to be redundancies rarely comes as a complete surprise, but telling a particular member of staff that they are to be made redundant is a difficult task, to be handled with great care. There are steps to follow, however, which should help to make the process as painless as possible.

Definition

This checklist concentrates solely on the redundancy interview itself - not the process leading up to it. It therefore excludes information concerning the statutory requirements of an organisation considering a redundancy programme.

A job is considered to be redundant if the employer:

* is ceasing to carry on the business the employment is in

* is closing down the business at the site at which the job is based

* is transferring the business from the site where the employment is based to another location (for example a company with two offices decides to rationalise onto one site)

* requires fewer employees to do the type of work (for instance one manager responsible for sales instead of two)

* needs fewer employees to carry out the work at the place where it is carried out (for example the divisional personnel function is closed but head office personnel remains and a personnel manager is appointed for each site).

The basic test for redundancy is whether the employer now needs fewer employees either across the country or at a particular location. In theory, the amount of work need not have changed, but it must be capable of being carried out by fewer people.

Termination interviews are conducted on a one-to-one basis, and their purpose is to ensure that employees:

* are given the news in a clear and objective manner

* are made aware of the reasons for the termination

* are given information on the timescales involved in the redundancy process

* are provided with details of the redundancy package on offer.

Action checklist

1. Prepare yourself

All managers find it difficult to deliver bad news to their employees. Before breaking such news to an individual it is essential to address your own feelings on the issue both towards redundancy itself and the impact on the employee.

2. Collect the information you require

To deliver the news of redundancy to an employee, it is essential that certain information is available to you. Make sure you are aware of and understand:

* the reasons for the redundancy or redundancies

* the method of selecting employees for redundancy

* the details of the termination package.

Review the personal details of the employee - particularly their employment record - in order to have all the facts before you meet with them.

3. Plan the interview

It is necessary to plan the interview in terms of timing, location, and what happens immediately afterwards.

Timing

Although line managers may have no choice in the precise timing of the news, possibly because of a decision by higher levels of management, aim to:

* avoid holding interviews on Fridays as there may be fewer (or no) support mechanisms available to employees over the weekend

* ensure that sufficient time is allowed for each interview (though with a clear time limit) and allow for a gap between interviews.

Location

Ensure that:

* the interviews are held in a quiet place, out of view or hearing from other employees and free from interruptions

* employees can, if possible, leave via a different exit to avoid embarrassment and to minimise upset between people who have been told what is happening, and any waiting to see you

* the interview room is laid out in an appropriate way - there are simple ways to avoid overt "them and us" ness!

Aftermath

It is necessary to establish what will happen to the employee as soon as they are told they are redundant. Some organisations require individuals to clear their desks (supervised by their manager or a member of the personnel department) and leave the premises immediately. Others expect the employee to work a notice period, but send them home for the remainder of the day on which they are told. Clarify what the organisational policy is, or whether special instructions apply to particular positions of responsibility.

Supporting paperwork

Collect together relevant information to form a pack which the employee can take away and read in their own time. This should reinforce information given in the interview, and provide some information in more depth (for example on support networks and mechanisms available to the individual).

4. Give the news

It is essential that news as momentous as redundancy is given in a manner which is clear and unambiguous. It is imperative that the news is given in a way which does not allow the individual to consider that the decision is anything less than final. Practise out loud the exact words you are going to use.

The amount of information given to an employee is critical. There is a fine balancing line between information overload and leaving an individual with unanswered questions. There can be no hard and fast rules about the amount of information to be given, as everyone is different and reacts to bad news in a different way.

5. Provide details of what is available

Briefly explain to the employee:

* the redundancy package (including financial settlement and other support)

* timescales involved

* contacts of organisations who may offer help (if no outplacement service is offered)

and provide them with a copy of the information pack you have prepared. If necessary and possible, arrange a follow-up meeting with them for the next week to answer further questions or to clarify any problems they may have.

6. Check the employee's understanding of the situation and close the interview

Allow the employee to pose any immediate questions they may have, and ensure they understand the information given to them. Invite the employee to contact you again if (as will often happen) further questions arise, but be firm about ending the interview to fit in with your planned timescale.

Dos and don'ts for breaking the news

Do

Be firm, clear and unambiguous. If necessary, make a list of all the points you wish to mention. Anticipate and prepare for negative reactions. Address your own feelings and be prepared. Demonstrate sympathy and empathy. Provide clear, written details of both the situation and what is on offer.

Don't

Rush the interview. Lose control. Give employees conflicting messages. Insult employees ("We just got rid of some dead wood").

Useful reading

Books

Redundancy: legal essentials, 3rd ed, Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development & Hammonds London: CIPD, 2003

Managing redundancy, Work Foundation London: Work Foundation, 2003

Thrive on redundancy, 2nd ed, Laurel Alexander Oxford: How to books, 2000

Journal Articles

Managing redundancy IDS HR Studies, no 797, May 2005

Communicating bad news: managing redundancy, Sarah Welfare IRS Employment Review, no 803, 2 Jul 2004, pp11-17

How to consult on collective redundancies, David Dalgarno and Philip Davies People Management, Vol 9 no 18, 11 Sep 2003, pp50-51

Useful addresses

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, IPD House, 35 Camp Road, London SW19 4UX

Tel: 020 8971 9000 www.cipd.co.uk

Chartered Management Institute

Management House, Cottingham Road, Corby, Northants NN17 1TT

Tel: 01536 204222 www.managers.org.uk

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

Brandon House, 180 Borough High Street, London SE1 1LW

Tel: 020 7210 3613 www.acas.org.uk

Thought starters

* There is no easy way to break bad news.

* Have you ever been made redundant? If so, how was the news delivered, and could it have been handled in a better way?

* What would be your opening and closing sentences?

* Is a short business-like exit interview more or less preferable to a less formal style?
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Title Annotation:Checklist 106
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: People Management
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:1284
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