“May you live in interesting times” – a term first used by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936 – is finding extra resonance at the moment as we all face a period of uncertainty and unsettledness.
Currently, the coronavirus crisis is forcing employers of all sizes across the UK economy to make drastic changes to their workforces. Businesses in the hospitality, travel and other sectors are having to focus on reducing their wage bills as ‘social distancing’ measures continue to impact. The financial sector is feeling the pinch, and as the nation endeavours to make sense of new regulations, employment lawyers have perhaps never been busier.
There’s no doubt that redundancy effectively reduces head-count and cuts costs but in these challenging times when morale is low and livelihoods are lost, employers are being urged to consider alternative solutions including flexible approaches to running their businesses.
If there are peaks and troughs in your business, consider redeployment – retraining an employee with transferable skills to take up a new role in an area of the business that needs it most. This could be a temporary arrangement to start with – it’s important to take into account the impact it will have on a team member especially if the new role is in a different location or means a change in hours.
A great – and topical – example of this agile approach recently took place at Imperial College in London where a new department was set up in a matter of days.
“We now, essentially, have a department of Covid-19 research. Our university shut down a week ago, but we have repurposed our medical buildings to run Covid-19 research to look at vaccines, diagnostic development and new therapeutic drugs.” Graham Cooke, Professor of infectious disease at Imperial College London
Job sharing typically allows staff to share one full-time role. Responsibilities and hours need to be negotiated, but when faced with the risk of redundancy or sharing their job, many staff are often happy to share.
Offering a job share will cut costs for your business without letting anyone go – it can also improve retention by providing a solution that appeals to skilled and experienced people who don’t want to work full-time or who have other commitments to juggle.
Voluntary sabbaticals and career breaks
Arranging unpaid sabbaticals/career breaks can be a great way to save on paying salaries for a fixed period of time without permanently losing valuable staff. This gives team members a chance to pursue their own interests, maybe learn a new skill, travel (when this is reinstated!) or take on voluntary work – over 400,000 people volunteered to help the NHS in one day.
It also provides an opportunity for some internal movement within your organisation: a development opportunity for another member of staff or a secondment. It can come with incentives, too.
In a bid to cut costs back in 2009, BT offered staff who made the decision to take a year off an upfront payment of 25% of their salary. The telecom giant also offered workers lump sum payments of £1,000 to switch to working part-time and gave parents the opportunity to only work during school terms so they could spend the holidays with their children. Flexing within an organisation rather than making redundancies can be a futureproof way of maximising resources.
For BT, the advantages included retaining talented people, avoiding future recruitment costs and swerving the reputational damage associated with redundancies. Plus the employee may develop new skills that will benefit the business in a wider way when they rejoin.
And finally, furloughing – not a term many people in the UK knew before March 2020!
Furloughed workers are those whose employers cannot cover staff costs (in present times, due to coronavirus) and so they have been asked to stop working, but have not been made redundant. As such, they remain on the employer’s payroll but cannot do any work for the employer that has furloughed them.
How the coronavirus brought furloughing to our attention
For the first time in British history, the Government announced in March that it would step in and pay people’s wages in a bid to protect workers who would otherwise have been made redundant because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs to a cap of £2,500 per calendar month. Employers can then choose to top up the HMRC payment. It’s open to businesses of any size and any sector including charities, recruitment agencies and public organisations.
Check the latest update from the government on furloughing.
If you’re facing difficult decisions, find out more about how the team at City CV can support you through redundancy and redeployment with outplacement services.
And if you’ve just been made redundant, you can count on us to help you assess your career to date, seek out new opportunities and get your CV and LinkedIn profile in the best possible shape. We’re here to make challenging times a little easier.