Compliance & Compassion – Redundancies CAN have both.

A lot of HR practitioners choose HR because they want to work in an area where they can help others, so ask most HR Practitioners what the toughest part of their role is and without a doubt you’ll hear the words “handling redundancies”.

For most HR Divisions, the pressure to make sure the redundancy is handled legally and in compliance with the Fair Work Act is the company’s number one priority.

Unfortunately, the pressure to make sure redundancies are done ‘compliantly’ can sometimes inadvertently overshadow the equally important issue of making sure it occurs with compassion. Current employment law creates a need in the lead up to redundancies to attend to onerous legal and compliance issues including lengthy notification and consultation procedures; careful assessment of redeployment considerations; meticulous planning of offers, careful handling of selection processes; identification of accurate severance entitlements, and development of notification communication processes.

Whilst these are all critical parts of the process, the unfortunate side-affect of this increasing pressure to be meticulously compliant is that sometimes compassion is at risk of being lost in the whirlwind of administration, legal discussions and planning. This has seen, at some companies, the natural expressions of empathy and compassion during notification gradually being replaced by communication scripts; planning become increasingly focused on logistics and asset-return policies, and security protocols following notification occasionally coming at the expense of employee dignity. But as many passionate HR practitioners will attest, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Compassion can be still offered without sacrificing the requirements of employment law. In fact according to the Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) “the impact of not being compassionate is becoming clear in the management literature. When managers do not express compassion when conducting layoffs or pay cuts, employees are more likely to file wrongful termination lawsuits and engage in workplace deviance.”

So what can HR do to ensure compassion and compliance is equally considered during the planning process?

  1. Partner with the management and the legal team to ensure any scripts and training are developed with a tone of both compassion and empathy along with fairness and compliance.
  2. Place a strong emphasis from the outset on respect and support as part of the necessary planning agenda including assessing ways to minimise negative impacts both during and after the notification process. This includes giving clear planning to where and when the communications will occur to safe guard employee privacy and dignity, and the support available both at the time (such as onsite counselling, EAP support) and after, via outplacement support.
  3. Don’t forget to support the welfare of the Managers involved in the process, and provide adequate support, counseling and training in the lead up to, and after, the notifications. It’s also important they are prepared for the myriad reactions that may present from staff both affected by redundancy and remaining.
  4. Look for ways to support existing staff following notification to ensure their emotional welfare is looked after too. Help rebuild morale, resolve fears about the future and restore confidence.
  5. If feasible and appropriate look for ways to recognize, respect and value the past contributions of those staff affected by the redundancies.  This helps reinforce to people past and present that you value your people and that the actions taken were business-related and unavoidable. It also sends the message to everyone that it was the positions being made redundant and not the people.
  6. Finally ensure you take time to care for your own health and welfare during the stressful planning process. As the airlines say, put your own mask on before the child’s. You need to be at your best so you can ensure the welfare of the most important assets of the business, its people, are taken care of.  And don’t forget you are one of them.


Recruitment, Pre-employment Selection and Compassion

* The information provided in this article is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, situation or needs. Before acting on this advice you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, situation and needs. Outplacement Australia disclaim all and any guarantees, undertakings and warranties, expressed or implied, and shall not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever (including human or computer error, negligent or otherwise, or incidental or consequential loss or damage) arising out of or in connection with any use or reliance on the information or advice in this article. The user must accept sole responsibility associated with the use of the material, irrespective of the purpose for which such use or results are applied. The information is no substitute for legal, financial or career advice.