Flexibility vs. Redundancy
Now I know what you're thinking. How on earth is HR anything to do with yoga? Well, most business owners and employers will know that in order to survive, we must adapt. And part of that is about being flexible. You see where I'm going with this?
Let's pretend you have an old leg injury that gives you some bother. It's been there a long time and you have decided it's time to make a change. You have two choices:
take some positive action to improve the strength and flexibility of the leg or
get rid of the leg, just chop it right off.
You could either try the first option, see how it works and use the second option as your last resort, or you could jump straight to chopping your leg off. But that sounds a bit extreme doesn't it?
The exact same principle applies to your employees and is particularly relevant in this time of survival.
For some of you, your businesses are operating as usual with an added 2m distance between everyone, but for some of you that still isn't an option just yet. Lots of you will have considered or are considering whether redundancies are going to be necessary.
Before you get to the outcome of redundancy (or chopping your leg off), there are lots of other options that you can explore.
"It's not about having the right opportunities,. It's about handling the opportunities right."
The idea of flexible working has long caused employers to recoil in horror, but COVID-19 has changed our perspectives on remote working and working from home. Amazingly, we can trust people to do their work, even with distractions! Because that never happens in the office...(inserts rolling eyes emoji)
So before you go rushing into redundancy, stop and think. Do you need your employees to work 9-5? What if you gave some employees the option to go part time? Do you need to work Monday - Friday or could you introduce a 7 day working week where people choose their working days? Could you train employees in different areas of the business? Do you even need an office?
Pandemics are never good, but the last few months have given us a brilliant opportunity to review our businesses and consider if we could work smarter, ensuring we have the right people in the right places.
Stop and think. Maybe book a session with a business coach and gather your thoughts about where your business is and where you want it to be. Then we can get to work.
Once you have established what changes you want to make, we need to implement them. Now any change to work location, hours or days of work are going to be considered a contractual change. That means you need to follow three simple steps to avoid any dodgy claims:
Consult - You need to discuss the options available with your employees. Not only does this make your life easier because some may volunteer, but it also encourages buy in to your ideas. You need to be open to their ideas and give them the opportunity to let you know if the suggested changes present any problems for them.
Agree - The consultation process is a two way street. The outcome needs to be agreed with the employee because you are changing the fundamental elements of their contract with you.
Put it in writing - Once you have agreed on the change, you need to record it in writing and gain the employee's signature to confirm agreement to the new terms. This letter then forms part of the employee contract and you can evidence that you have obtained employee agreement. You then give the employee reasonable notice of when the change will take place.
If you haven't been able to identify a better way of working or a way of ensuring business continuity, redundancies may be on the cards.
This should always be treated as a last resort and should not be a forgone conclusion. Redundancies relate to the role not the person - so don't assume you can make Jane redundant because she's not been performing well. You need to be thinking about the business needs for that role.
As with contractual changes, you need to go through a consultation period and the same rules apply in terms of allowing employee input as to how redundancies could be avoided.
There are lots of different rules around how to approach redundancy depending on the number of roles at risk so it's really important that you consult a professional (me!) if this is the route you're looking at.
Final Two Pennies
There are no rights or wrongs here. You should focus on what is best for your business, not what everyone else is doing. And if in doubt, speak to a professional that you trust.
Stay sane, stay safe! Lilac's got your back.