Making redundancy work

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014

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REDUNDANCY: The job hunt can be tough.

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Around 10,000 people were reported as having lost their jobs in 2013 - something most of them would have never have seen coming at the start of the year.

It pays, therefore, to know your rights in case you face the same situation this year.

No official numbers are collected on redundancies and the Council of Trade Union (CTU) said many job losses go unreported due to lack of representation or corporates gagging staff.

Last year redundancies were spread across a wide range of industries including engineering, science and research, media, and construction. Even blue-chip companies such as Air New Zealand, Telecom and Carter Holt Harvey shed staff.

Peter van Keulen, partner at Christchurch law firm Cavill Leech, said he faced various reactions from people laid off after the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes.

"Some people are quite objective, but others get angry and bitter and see using a lawyer as ‘I need to get them back, and get some money'. Others are resigned to the fact that they have lost their job.

"Many just want to know what their rights are and if it is genuine."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said the genuine test was whether the job cuts were to improve efficiency or reduce costs , a material change in the job description, or a business was relocating some distance.

Van Keulen said knowing your rights and the correct procedure employers must follow was crucial to getting a fair deal. Case law in New Zealand provided examples of many unjustified and unsuccessful redundancies so employees should always engage with their employer and not simply accept their fate, he said.

"You must be treated fairly throughout, your employer needs a substantive reason for any job losses and needs to follow a fair process in coming to a conclusion around job losses.

"You'd expect to be consulted on the reasons for redundancies, the process and asked to give feedback on the proposals."

Getting a financial payout through voluntary or involuntary redundancy has got harder, in line with market conditions. "If the whole business is shutting up shop, then that is even less likely you'll get anything," van Keulen said.

CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said for employees in smaller businesses, with no union representation the chances of receiving a payout were slim to none.

Labour MP Sue Moroney has twice tried unsuccessfully to pass a private member's bill to bring in a minimum redundancy payout for all workers.

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Van Keulen said workers made redundant should appeal to the employer's good nature if you have worked there for a long time or if it will take time to find a new role.

Payout or not, a 2011 Massey University study found workers who went through a redundancy see it as "a significant life event that altered their career path and world view . . . and can lead to long-term changes in workers' relationship with employers and the significance of work within their lives".

Madison Recruitment's Julie Cressey said following the GFC her company dealt with many workers made redundant, which partially removed the stigma associated with being let go.

"As a result most potential employers will have an understanding as to why that individual's role was made redundant and this is by no means used as a reason not to employ someone," she said.

Cressey said although the stigma may be reducing, it still takes plenty of motivation, planning and skill to secure your next job.

"That includes tapping into your networks, talking to recruitment agencies and companies that you ideally wish to work for. It is about focus in regards to finding a new role and it is a job in itself to ensure that your resume is up to date," she said.

GETTING BACK ON THE WORKHORSE

Put a plan in place. Review your resume, the internet can give you specific tips for your industry. Create an adaptable template for a good cover letter. Talk to your network, who do you know who can assist? Talk to a recruitment agency. Register for online updates from job boards and potential employers. Get a mentor who can give you a boost on those low days. If you're able, seek career coaching or advice to ensure you are on the right track.

- Sunday Star Times

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