2017 is the year I turned 40. As a woman this age loomed large in my life for the last 12 months with many questions [doubts] bouncing around my brain: Can I lose weight before I hit 40? Will I be earning more money before I hit 40? Will this be the year I learn to like Avocado? I did not foresee that this would be the year that my life turned upside down. I did not ever think that this would be the year I would be made redundant.
I had been working as Operational Support Manager for a Digital Marketing Agency since April 2013 and I was one of those rare people that actually loved their job. Great office, great people, great company. I was passionate about the work I was doing and believed in where the company wanted to go and genuinely felt I was helping them get there. And then March 17th 2017 happened.
I had the Friday feeling - no plans for the night and was looking forward to the 6pm Gin & Tonic that signalled the start of the weekend (that G&T is the best one of the weekend!). I arrived at work and began the process of logging on and chatting to colleagues before starting that days work. I was then summoned to the meeting room and without any prior warning was informed that due to an organisation reshuffle my role was now redundant.
Well. What do you say when you have been told that? I was shocked and devastated and not long after blind panic hit.
Now there is a right way to make someone redundant and there are many wrong ways to make someone redundant: my belief is that my previous employers did not opt to follow the right way. I won't bore you with the details, but what I will tell you is that if you believe your employer has not adhered to the correct process for making someone redundant then you absolutely have to get in touch with ACAS.
According to their website, ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service website) provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. These were the first people I contacted to find out what I should do next. I discovered that as soon as my employment was terminated that I could start an early conciliation case - but before that I wanted to find out more from my previous employers about their decision!
Here are some points I have learnt so far:
The At Risk Meeting:
This is the meeting where your employers are informing you your role is going to be made redundant - even if you had an idea this may happen it is still a shock!
Stay calm and listen to what the person delivering the news is saying - ensure you understand if you are able to continue working during your consultation period or if the employer would rather you stay at home with full pay.
Ensure you understand what roles are available to you to consider during your consultation period and have a date booked for when the consultation ends.
The End of Consultation Meeting:
At your consultation meeting do not be afraid to ask your employer questions around the reason for your redundancy:
They should be able to completely outline the decision making process for making your role redundant as well as show you the framework used to determine which roles should be made redundant.
Did your employer consider all the options before making you personally redundant? The role may be redundant but that does not mean that you are - there could be junior members of staff that could be "bumped" to allow a more experienced member of staff to stay on in the company.
You are allowed to take someone with you to this meeting in a note taking capacity - DO take notes - and it is advised to inform the meeting owner prior to arriving - don't just turn up with someone unannounced!
The person accompanying you can be anyone you wish - it does not have to be someone from within the company.
You have the right to adjourn that meeting at any time and you should be provided with an agenda prior to the meeting, as well as be informed as to who will be in attendance.
The employer will be expecting you to either apply for the other roles on offer or to state that you accept the redundancy - you will either have one month notice to work or they may opt to pay you a month's pay in lieu of notice. If they offer the latter your employment will end on the day of that meeting.
If you are unhappy with the circumstances around your redundancy and the consultation meeting did not help to alleviate this unhappiness your next option is to contact ACAS to start the FREE Early Conciliation process. ACAS will act as an impartial mediator to try to resolve any grievances surrounding the redundancy as quickly as possible for the employer and the employee. It is a completely voluntary process and all parties need to agree to be a part of it.
You would need to complete an Early Conciliation Notice Form to start the process and within two working days a Conciliator will contact you to confirm details and obtain further information. Within the next 5 working days they will contact the employer to see if a resolution can be found.
Citizens Advice Bureau
Do get in touch with Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as you have started the early conciliation process as they can advise you what you should ask for should the company decide to settle with you. The last thing you want to do is short change yourself or have unrealistic ideas of how much you should ask for!
Should ACAS not be able to help you resolve the redundancy grievance then the only option left is an Employment Tribunal and this could be very expensive, so is not a decision to be made lightly. I cannot share my experience in this at present as I am still at the Early Conciliation phase, but don't worry I will certainly pass on any tips should I journey down that road!
The Next Steps
So what happens now? I have a mortgage to pay, two children to feed and clothe and an obsession with Orla Kiely shoes to fuel! The thought of updating my CV filled me with dread along with wrestling with feelings of humiliation crossed with anger and a touch of despair thrown in - and did I mention I turned 40 in February?!!!
I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason; and you have to make things happen - no-one else could find me a job - I had to find something that would make me happy, be part time because I still need to pick the kids up from school, be of a certain wage level and oh yeah, flexible in the school holidays. Loads of those jobs available in Shropshire right? And then an idea took hold - I could be my own boss! Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am going to be self-employed, answering to myself, working when i want to. I, my friends, want to do something that makes me happy - and that happy for me is admin!
I'll tell you what happens in my next missive but in the mean time, if you have found yourself out of a job - allow yourself to cry. You can feel rubbish, you are allowed to wallow - but set yourself a deadline for when you are going to pick yourself up and dust yourself off - because there is a new chapter in your life just waiting to begin!