Majority of line managers not trained to deal with redundancies, survey finds

Lack of support in managing the process could have negative impact on bosses’ mental wellbeing, data suggests

Credit: Vadim Zhakupov/iStockphoto/Getty Images

The vast majority of employers (74 per cent) do not offer their line managers any training on how to handle redundancies, a study has found.

In the study, conducted by WorkNest, 80 per cent of businesses claimed budget cuts, low business demands and inflation were driving their need to make redundancies, but line managers have received little training to deal with this.

Lack of assistance during the redundancy process may also have a negative impact on a line manager's mental health, as the survey of 277 employers found that while a quarter (24 per cent) of line managers had received general wellbeing training, 82 per cent did not receive wellbeing training specifically for dealing with redundancies.

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JC Townend, chief executive of career transition and mobility at LHH, said poorly handled redundancies could have devastating effects on a company’s reputation, so taking steps to prepare managers to have those conversations with compassion and sensitivity was essential. “Professional, company-specific workshops for line managers, possibly including coaching, are a cost-efficient way to deliver tailored support and guidance to help managers have these difficult conversations and, importantly, ensure that employees who are impacted have access to the resources they need to transition smoothly,” said Townend.

Investing in career transition services for departing employees was a “powerful signal” to all your employees that you are committed to them long term, and can take pressure off managers who care about their staff and want to help them navigate their next steps, but may not have the bandwidth or expertise, Townend explained.

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Gemma Dale, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, said organisations should “also think about raising awareness on other complex issues like redundancy survivor syndrome for those who are not made redundant and remain in the workforce”.

While she recognised the “potential cost of this” to an organisation, the cost of not doing it “might be greater”, she added.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said employers needed to ensure redundancies were handled delicately, and that managers were at the forefront of that process. “It’s an employer's responsibility to ensure the process is handled in a compassionate and supportive way. This includes training and supporting line managers to have empathetic conversations and listen to concerns, as they are likely to be the first point of contact for those at risk of redundancy,” she said.

Suff added that those who were at risk of being made redundant should have “access to health and wellbeing support”, and recommended “outplacement and specialist help” in CV writing and interview skills.

However, the WorkNest report found that half (52 per cent) of employers were not considering providing outplacement support to help employees find a new job after redundancy.

Additionally, 11 per cent of businesses fear that redundancies may be their only choice, with redundancy inquiries increasing by 17.5 per cent from November 2022 to January 2023, compared to August to October 2022.

Amanda Trewhella, employment director at Freeths, pointed out that, under UK employment law, it was not sufficient “just to have a valid reason” to terminate someone’s employment, it was also necessary to follow a “fair process” before doing so.

“In a redundancy situation, fair process will involve consulting with employees individually and sometimes additionally with employee representatives as part of a group consultation; it is also necessary to follow a fair selection process when deciding which employees from a pool of staff should be made redundant”, said Trewhella.

Where managers do not have sufficient training in how to run a fair and lawful process, there is a “risk” they will leave the organisation open to claims of unfair dismissal, she added.

The news follows a spate of redundancies at large organisations, including Disney – as reported by the Guardian – which recently declared it will lay off 3.2 per cent of its workforce, amounting to around 7,000 people, to save costs.

Meanwhile, a previous People Management report of official figures found that the redundancy rate increased to 3.4 per 1,000 employees from September to November last year.