The current Coronavirus pandemic has led many businesses to rethink the products and services that they offer to customers and clients.    Some of the positives that have come out of this situation are creativity, flexibility and innovation. 

However, as the economic impact continues to take its toll, some businesses are inevitably having to consider restructures and redundancies.    In my role as an external HR Consultant, I have been involved in managing a number of restructures for clients over the past few months.  

Here are some key considerations before you start talking to employees – this is a general overview – I recommend taking professional advice on your individual situation before starting a restructure/redundancy process:

Develop a plan

  • What does the new structure of your business look like?
  • Which roles will be key to the success of your business?
  • What knowledge, skills and behaviours will employees need in the new world?  
  • How will work be carried out – on site or remotely?

A basic organisation structure and job descriptions will help everyone understand what the business will look like in the future.

Ways to avoid redundancy 

  • Offering voluntary redundancy or early retirement – usually with some sort of incentive; these need to be available to all employees to avoid potential discrimination 
  • Identify transferable skills of existing employees to see if they can move from a team where workload has reduced to a busier area of the organisation 
  • Train and develop team members to give them new skills and knowledge 
  • Temporarily reduce working hours – this would need to be agreed with employees unless it is covered in their contract of employment 
  • Put recruitment on hold 

Communication and consultation 

One of the challenges of the pandemic is how to conduct a redundancy consultation process when many employees are working remotely.  Many companies are using tools such as Zoom and Teams to keep in touch with their employees, and these can be used for consultation purposes as well.    You must discuss your plans with any employees who are likely to be affected by a redundancy situation.

The purpose of the consultation is:

  • To try and find ways to avoid redundancy 
  • To explain what is happening and why
  • Explain the impact on the individual, team and the wider business, including how many jobs are at risk
  • Explain how you will select people for redundancy – it is important to be transparent and avoid potential discrimination 
  • Timescales and redundancy pay
  • Ask the employee for any suggestions that they may have

Through effective consultation, some of my clients have avoided compulsory redundancies, as staff have reduced their working hours to help save jobs or taken voluntary redundancy.

According to employment legislation:

  • If you are making less than 20 people redundant, there are no set rules around timescales 
  • If you are making 20 – 99 roles redundant within 90 days in 1 workplace – you must begin consultation with employees at least 30 days before giving the first redundancy notice
  • If you are making more than 100 roles redundant within 90 days in 1 workplace – you must begin consultation at least 45 days before giving the first redundancy notice

Remind employees what support is available to them during the redundancy process.

Employee engagement 

As well as regular, open communication with those employees who are at risk of redundancy, it is also important to make sure you keep those staff who will remain with the business informed and engaged.  They will be taking notice of how you are treating their ‘at risk’ colleagues during a difficult time, and some people will struggle with ‘survivor syndrome’.  Once the restructure has happened, take time to talk to everyone, both from a business and personal level, particularly during this difficult time.  

How can HR Solutions Yorkshire Limited help?

With over 25 years’ experience of HR, Sarah Darbyshire has been involved in a number of business restructures and redundancy programmes.  We can support you through every stage of the redundancy process from developing your business plan, through the consultation process, supporting employees through the transition and engaging your workforce.  If you would like a no-obligation discussion about how we may be able to support you – please call us on 01937 591577/07495 857525 or email