Voluntary redundancy: to be avoided at all cost?

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During any planned downsizing, a question for HR and employers is always whether to opt for a voluntary or forced redundancy process – but for one HR expert, opting for voluntary redundancies makes no sense.

Voluntary redundancy is a process common in the public sector, and can have the benefit of taking less of a toll on workplace morale. Yet, it comes at the cost of reduced control over the process and many claim it is fundamentally flawed because those who are confident they will quickly find a new job – ie the best performers – will leave.

 “In my view, if you go ahead with voluntary redundancies you’ve got rocks in your head,” Tim Roche from HR consultancy Right Management says. “I saw it a million times in the early ‘90s dealing with public sector privatizations; they’d conduct these voluntary redundancies and all the talent would take the money and walk out the door because they backed themselves to find another job, and in the meantime you’re left with the deadwood.”

According to Roche, in all but exceptional business circumstances, forced redundancy is the smarter business move.

Employment consultant Steve Frye suggests having a defined process for measuring performance and ensuring it is applied consistently to avoid accusations of bias. Establish written criteria, he says, and apply those criteria to each employee based on objective measurements.

“Careful advance planning is required. Open communication with employees affected by a reduction in workforce will decrease the risk associated with the terminations,” Frye says. “Open communication with those who remain will also be important for employee morale.”
 

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