Supporting staff at risk of redundancy
By Jo Holland
July 1 2021 - Jo Holland is the employer engagement manager at the Department for Education funded Transition to Teach project, which supports eligible career changers, and those at risk of redundancy into teaching. Jo had this advice on supporting staff at risk of redundancy:
In summer 2020, redundancies were at their highest level since 2009, at 8.2 per 1000 employees. Thankfully, ONS statistics show that in the period of February to April 2021, reported redundancies have decreased to 4.0 per 1000 employees. Yet, even with redundancy rates slowly returning to pre pandemic levels, the fact remains that many employers will have to face the prospect of making staff redundant which can be traumatic for both the employer and the employee. With the right guidance and support though, employers and HR teams can help employees through the process of redundancy.
1. Acknowledge the emotional impact. One of the most difficult aspects of redundancy is the emotional impact. Whether itís sudden, or whether there are regular redundancy rounds within the firm, it can be extremely stressful for the employee as they grapple with issues of self-worth, confidence and fear about the future.
Katrin Joost, 51, from Cumbria is training as a teacher with Transition to Teach, and explains the impact of redundancy: "I was made redundant in 2020 and it was absolutely horrendous. It happened over a period of years. First, my hours had been reduced which made it very difficult financially. I knew redundancy was a possibility and the stress of worrying about my job was awful. I felt disillusioned and it really knocked my confidence. Even though I knew the redundancy was due to circumstance, it still affected me hugely as an individual."
2. Discuss future prospects. Redundancy can be down to many factors and is often outside of the control of the employee and the employer, for example, as companies are forced into periods of change due to trading conditions. A positive step that the employer can take is to help employees at risk of redundancy to explore different career avenues, even career avenues they may never have considered before, like teaching. One of the most satisfying parts of my role as an employer engagement manager is working alongside employers, helping them to give staff back hope for the future. In Katrinís words: "The redundancy forced me to consider what I could do next and I was able to think once more about my love of languages."
3. Appreciate transferable skills. One of the most powerful, useful and actually, even transformative actions an employer with staff at risk of redundancy can take, is to help their staff to identify transferable skills. When we work with individuals who have gone through redundancy, they tend to underestimate the value of the skills they already have. And by skills, itís not necessarily the technical skills, although those are of course useful, but the soft skills like communication, empathy, leadership, conflict resolution and myriad other skills that individuals build up during their working lives. By helping employees to identify their transferable skills, you are putting them into the best possible position to find new employment, and even a new career. Katrin was able to put her transferable skills to new use as a teacher: "At 51, I have life experience that I can take into the classroom. Whilst this year is about amassing that pedagogical knowledge and teaching experience, Iím a confident communicator and standing in front of a class doesnít faze me."
4. Identify shortage industries. For many, redundancy can be the catalyst for exploring a new industry, and it can be useful for the employer with staff at risk of redundancy to highlight the industries with skills shortages. An example is STEM. Initial Teacher Training recruitment for physics, maths and chemistry was below target in 2020, hitting 45% for physics, 80% for chemistry and 84% for maths. 69% of Transition to Teach participants trained to move into STEM teaching in 2020, in a subject such as science, maths or computer science, up from 37% in 2019. Helping employees to see where their skills will not only be valued, but greatly needed, can set them onto a path to a brand new career.
5. Work alongside external agencies. It can take months or even years for a potential redundancy situation to become an active redundancy situation. Approaching relevant organisations offering alternative careers, support and advice early on means they are able to quickly spring into action when the redundancy situation becomes active. Having this in place early on can even mean that employees can prepare for their next steps after redundancy, and potentially look ahead to a future career. In the case of teaching, many participants will use their redundancy period to undertake subject knowledge enhancement courses, to research funding options or to apply for initial teacher training (ITT) courses. Whilst redundancy is a sensitive topic for all involved, bringing in external agencies can ease the process and make the transition to new employment, or a new career, as painless as possible.
6. Offer clear, concise advice. Itís natural that employees at risk of redundancy will have many questions, these questions are part of the process that will help them to move on to the next stage of their career journey. Of course, there is the risk of overwhelm with too much information at once. One way to approach this is to have a dedicated section of the website or intranet with advice and information for employees to digest and revisit at their own pace. Offering webinars with external agencies can also provide a different format to written information, which may be preferable to some employees. Teaching isnít a career for everyone, but what we hope to do at Transition to Teach is there for individuals when they are facing redundancy to help them explore whether teaching is for them. And if it is, to offer support right through to the end of their first year as newly qualified teachers. For many, like Katrin, making the move into teaching helped to restore their confidence and see a clear route for the future: "Becoming a teacher has helped me to see that even though I was made redundant, my experience wasnít redundant. It was still valued and could be used in a new way. After the trauma of the redundancy, Transition to Teach has helped to rebuild my confidence. It has been a really positive experience."
About Transition to Teach
Transition to Teach is a Department for Education funded initiative that supports eligible career changers into the teaching profession, with a renewed focus for 2020 of supporting those who have been made, or are at risk of, redundancy. The project is part of the UK governmentís commitment to invest over £10 million to support career changers into the teaching profession. The Transition to Teach programme was developed to promote, identify and support new career opportunities to successful professionals interested in changing their careers. The scheme focuses on encouraging potential teachers to recognise how their existing skills and experience can be applied to the classroom environment, to make a positive impact on young people and to provide an outstanding level of education across the country. Transition to Teach is delivered through Cognition Education.