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Let go letters and email notice "disrespectful"

16 July 2013

A major cultural institution has come under fire this week for a recent round of redundancies. It might not sound particularly newsworthy, but what caught the media's attention were reports from the relevant union that the ten employees were notified via email or via a letter left on their desks.

Worse, two of the employees being made redundant were on leave, so they did not receive the letters left for them and were subsequently notified by their colleagues.

Comments from staff at the institution indicate that, although the structural changes may be supported by some, the way management has treated those being made redundant has been roundly condemned. One staff member pointed to a "lack of respect" which has damaged the culture within the organisation.

The legal requirements around redundancies can be quite tricky and employers risk unfair dismissal claims if they have not worked through the requirements carefully. Because of this complexity, organisations without experienced IR personnel can benefit from HR support services that can help an organisation to navigate complex matters of redeployment, redundancy pay and how to inform staff. There are some simple things employers can do to help the process run smoothly.

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Ensure the redundancy is genuine. You should consider every possible option for redeployment – even lower-paid positions – before deciding redundancy is the only option.

Think carefully about when to announce it. Research suggests that notifying the employee on the day they are due to finish up causes the most distress. It is preferable to let them know in advance so they have time to adjust and put some plans in place. There is also a general theory that notification should be done early in the week and not before a weekend or holiday, to avoid employees feeling stressed and unsupported.

Notify the employee in person. This might seem daunting, but it shows appropriate respect for the employee and gives them an opportunity to discuss the decision and what happens next.

Provide a summary of entitlements they will be paid for. In the interests of clear communication, ensure you provide redundant employees with a summary of their entitlements and what they can expect to be paid. Do not forget to check the National Employment Standards scale for redundancy payouts – these range from four to sixteen weeks' pay, depending on length of service.

Provide support. If possible, help employees with career counselling, referrals, time off for job interviews – anything you can to help them secure their next role.

iHR Australia offers HR support services that can help you with redundancies and other people management processes. iHR Australia is a leading HR consulting firm and offers a range of services including on site and on call HR support services. Call 1300 884 687 or make an online enquiry.

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