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Worried about losing your job?

Changes at work can feel like they happen out of the blue, sometimes as companies react to events – good or bad. Often the decisions to look for new kinds of customers or restructure to have different roles have been discussed, debated and considered by managers before they’re announced to everyone. Although that might not be a comfort, if you didn’t see it coming.

What does it mean for employees? Every company adapts and evolves over time, but sudden changes can be unsettling. It depends on the extent: for example, if people are likely to lose their jobs because the firm needs to reduce the number of employees or doesn’t need particular kinds of skills anymore.

Legally, companies can do this after a fairly short period of consultation, if it involves redundancies. If employees have been employed for more than 2 years, they should receive redundancy payments – usually hundreds rather than thousands of pounds, unless people have been employed for many years.

For newer people, you might not get a redundancy payment and you might find the company is making the changes more quickly. You don’t have employment rights (or the right to any redundancy pay) until you’ve been employed for 2 years.

So if your manager decides your performance isn’t good enough and wants to terminate your employment, it’s a 24-month period from starting any job until you have employment rights. Normally the risky period is if you’re on probation though, because after that managers tend to use disciplinary hearings for any performance issues rather than just firing people. But that’s not a guarantee, of course – it depends on the manager and the company culture.

Anyone who is worried about losing their job and feels the company is just trying to fire them is in a tricky position, in terms of options to do anything. If you don’t have employment rights (2 years), then you cannot make an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. You can make other claims, including discrimination claims – if you can show that you were targeted for an unlawful reason such as your gender, age, race, sexuality, a health issue or religious beliefs.

Even if you have been employed for 2 years, you have to pay fees, the process is pretty bureaucratic and it can be stressful and time-consuming. There’s more information about fees and Tribunals here https://www.quickhr.biz/work-disputes-less-risk-of-a-tribunal-claim/.UPDATE: fees have been scrapped – see more here.

If you are worried about your job, here’s some advice:

  • Ask your manager or HR and see if there’s anything happening that affects you.
  • Don’t wait until you’re out of work before you start thinking about the future.
  • Refresh your CV, sign up to see jobs by email (www.indeed.co.uk is useful because it compiles job adverts from all over the place) and start to see what’s available and what salaries are like. That gives you some time to consider your options before you have to make decisions.
  • If you’re told that your job is probably going, don’t expect things to change. Whether you agree with it or not, you need to focus as much on what you’re going to do next as on discussions with your current employer.
  • Arguing with your employer might be tempting, but it also might not be the best use of your time and energy. Sometimes employers change their minds about removing jobs and saying goodbye to employees, but that’s only happened a small minority of cases we’ve been involved with over many years. Employers are rarely stupid enough to tell employees they might lose their jobs and then keep them – because it damages working relationships.
  • If you’re likely to get payments that give you a while to pay your living costs (maybe a redundancy payment and pay for your notice period), this might be your chance to take stock and think about changing career and / or having a break, even a short one, before you start your next job. Depending on the size of the payments (and normally for long-serving employees), it might be the only period in your working life than you can afford to not work for a while.
  • If that’s not the case and you just need to get another job quickly to pay the rent, then get something – but keep looking. Once the immediate pressure’s off, you will be in a better place to decide what you want to do.
  • Convinced the whole thing is unlawful and determined to make some kind of legal claim? Rather than wasting hours Googling the issues or getting well-meaning but possibly inaccurate advice from your loved ones, get quick advice from an expert such as ACAS or similar organisations http://www.acas.org.uk/.

Whatever happens, this is not the end of the world – even if it’s a difficult and upsetting time for you. It’s a job and you can find somewhere else to work. You might even like the next job more – often people do.


By Brian