The need to support employees who are at risk of redundancy is obvious, but it can be easy to overlook the effect that redundancies can have on employees who are not directly affected. Employers should take some time to consider and manage the effects of redundancies on employees who remain in their organisation.
The effect on employees who remain with you can be lessened if the redundancy processes can be seen by all to be fair and transparent.
Nevertheless, they may be:
- Less committed or loyal than before.
- Performing less well and being less productive.
- Displaying signs of ‘stress’ or anxiety.
- Unwilling or slow to make decisions and in particular, to take risks.
- Taking more time off sick.
- More likely to look for jobs elsewhere with competitors.
This is unsurprising as these employees may have experienced months of uncertainty when they were unsure whether or not they were going to lose their jobs. They will also have seen colleagues, who may also have been friends, being made redundant and witnessed the effects of this.
Motivation and loyalty will be greatly affected by how fair the employer’s redundancy processes, including the selection criteria, are perceived to be by the employees who remain. How you as an employer have treated disabled employees, is likely therefore to have a direct impact on all your remaining workforce, disabled or not. It is vital to have a good communications strategy for your entire workforce that explains:
- Why you have to make the redundancies.
- What you have done to try to avoid making redundancies, for example cutting overtime, offering reduction in hours and voluntary redundancies.
- The consultation process.
- How you will select who will be made redundant and the reasons for your selection criteria as well as adjustments that you will make (e.g. disabled employees or people with caring responsibilities).
- The support that you will provide to those who are going to be made redundant such as help in acquiring training and another job.
Ensure too that employees are kept up to date with what is happening to reduce the risk of rumours and misinformation spreading. There may also be more practical considerations for employees who remain in your workforce.
Redundancies of their colleagues might mean that employees who remain have to:
- Take on more work.
- Take on greater responsibility.
- Learn new skills.
- Work longer hours.
- Work within new teams or with different people.
- Work in a different location
- Report to a different manager.
You must make reasonable adjustments for people who you know or think might be disabled because of the problems they are having at work. So, if someone tells you they have a disability or illness that is affecting the way they can do their job you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
A change in responsibilities can mean that employees who have not previously told you about a disability because they did not need reasonable adjustments now find it difficult to do their job. For example, someone who is now required to travel between sites or offices may for the first time reveal that they find this difficult because of a non–visible, visual or mobility impairment.
Additional responsibility or stress may also aggravate existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, heart problems or a mental health problem such as depression.
It is also important for disabled employees who have new managers to have the opportunity to discuss reasonable adjustments they need with them. Disabled employees should not be required to re-negotiate adjustments that have previously been agreed, but new managers do need to understand the adjustments and their implementation. Using a ‘workplace adjustment plan’ available from the Business Disability Forum will help this process.
Managers, however, should also be looking out for signs that someone might have a disability that they had not previously told them about. Bear in mind that these signs might be linked to a disability that the person has not chosen to tell you about, or to one they themselves do not yet know about. Warning signs could be that:
- Their attendance is poor or deteriorates.
- Their performance at work deteriorates.
- Their behaviour at work changes and they are tearful, aggressive or irritable, or withdrawn and forgetful.
- They are persistently late or miss deadlines.
- They appear to be experiencing pain or discomfort.
Don’t waste time trying to work out if someone meets the legal definition of disability. If a member of your team is having problems at work, talk to them, try to find out what would help and make any changes you reasonably can to help them do their job.
It is important to remember that everyone is different and has different levels of resilience. Some people might not be affected by changes at work and may even relish the opportunity to take on more responsibility and show their capabilities. Other people may be feeling overwhelmed by change or increases in responsibility. The courts have been clear that there is no such thing as an inherently stressful job.
Employers, however, are under a duty to take reasonable steps to reduce the distress of employees when it is apparent that they are struggling or not coping with their work, i.e. if it is reasonably foreseeable that the employee might become unwell as a result of work pressures. Failure to do so could lead not only to claims for disability discrimination but also for personal injury if the employee can show that the employer was negligent in failing to reduce or remove the risk that they would suffer a psychiatric injury because of their work.
Remember to highlight any sources of support that employees can access such as your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and resources you might have on your intranet.
For more on managing stress and mental health see the Business Disability Forum Mental Health Toolkit