Being made redundant is always a difficult experience. It can hit twice as hard during times of economic uncertainty, and especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues to destablise the country.
The economic damage dealt by COVID-19 resulted in nearly 500,000 redundancies and a stark rise in unemployment within the first five months of the pandemic, and we may still be course to see an even steeper rise. Some experts have even predicted unemployment will cross the four million mark, prompting Chancellor Rishi Sunak into creating a Winter Economy Plan involving a new Job Support Scheme to replace the out-going furlough scheme and further support for the self-employed.
In spite of the government’s support, however, we were seeing thousands of job losses as early as three weeks into the UK’s national lockdown, and since then, companies such as Clarks, Burger King, and Selfridges have all decided to make redundancies.
In early August, the BBC reported that calls to redundancy advice services had tripled as the furlough scheme began to wind down – but what is redundancy, how can you be made redundant, and what should you do if you’ve been made redundant during the coronavirus pandemic? Let’s explore.
What is redundancy?
Redundancy is the term given to the dismissal of an employee when there’s no more, or not enough, work for them to perform. As an example, it used to be that hundreds of painters and welders would cram the assembly lines at BMW and Mercedes-Benz, until “co-bots” (or collaborative robots to you and me) were developed to automate the entire process. With the co-bots increasing productivity and proving cheaper than hiring actual human beings, all of those workers were made redundant on the grounds that there was no work left for them to perform.
In the case of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, your employer might decide to make you redundant if the demand for your company’s service has dropped, and there is no longer enough work available for you to perform (i.e. if you’re a waiter or bartender and not enough customers are visiting).
For more information on the redundancy process, including your legal rights, the notice of redundancy period, and Statutory Redundancy Pay (SRP), check out our dedicated redundancy guide article.
Take a deep breath
There’s no getting away from it: being made redundant is a scary and stressful thing. The questions, the doubts, the fears that come with being let go are all perfectly natural, but the most important first step you need to take if you’ve been made redundant is to take a deep breath and gather your thoughts.
Nine times out of ten, the decision to make someone redundant has nothing to do with their performance. The unfortunate reality of the COVID economy is that companies are having to cut costs, and it’s important to remember that you were not made redundant because you weren’t good at your job.
There will always need to be a period of mourning in situations like these, but it’s important to not let it take hold of you. Be kind to yourself, buy that stuffed-crust pizza from the corner shop, get an early night and take a lay-in the next day. Then stand up straight, dust yourself off, and get ready to come back stronger.
Consider your options
You’ve almost certainly heard the expression “When one door closes, another door opens”, and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to situations like these. Now is the perfect time to look into all of those career opportunities you’ve been toying with over the years.
Remember a couple of months when you wanted to pack it all in and work for a dog rescue trust? Or when you told your friends you’d love to work for yourself one day? Well, it isn’t a dream anymore - now, it’s an option worth exploring. Now’s your chance.
The first thing you’ll need to consider is whether you’d like to make a go of it in the exciting world of self-employment, or whether you’d prefer to return the rhythm and structure of the traditional nine-to-five. Do you have a passionately-held hobby that you’d love to try and turn into a full-time job? You can check out our “How to test your start-up idea” article for a bit more guidance on how to judge the viability of your idea - and if it’s a go-er? You too could be living your very own self-employed dream.
We’ll be discussing starting your own business in just a little while, but if you’ve decided you’d prefer to stick to the tried-and-true full-time employment, there’s a couple of things for you to consider.
Update your CV
If you’re looking to get back into full-time employment, it all starts with your CV. You may find that it’s a little under-loved if you’ve been in employment for a number of years, so there’s no shame in scrapping your old one and starting anew.
A CV is your opportunity to shout about yourself in a professional manner, so draw up a list of all the skills you’ve acquired in your career, pick the top five, and make sure they feature. Remember, though, that each job you apply for will be looking for something slightly different to the last - tailor your CV for each role, shout about the important skills they want to see from you, and explain how they were useful in your previous roles.
We have a couple of dedicated articles with some extra CV guidance, specifically aimed at contractors and freelancers. If you’re going for a full-time position, there are still some tid-bits in both of those articles that you can apply to your own CV, so check them out for the full details.
Don’t forget about LinkedIn
Yes, it may be everybody's least favourite social platform, but it’s also a powerful tool in the hunt for new employment. After all, LinkedIn isn’t designed for you to catch up with friends or share your reactions to Bake Off - it’s all about jobs, it’s all about networking, and getting a foothold in the wild world of LinkedIn can be invaluable when you’re searching for new employment.
We’ve written a comprehensive rundown of LinkedIn profile tips and the various facets of the “networkers network”, so be sure to give it a read for some expert guidance on how to maximise the potential of your LinkedIn profile.
Consider a side-hustle
Are you a dab hand with a paint brush? Do you know your way around Adobe Photoshop? Do you know your azaleas from your orchids? Whatever your speciality, you might be able to make a bit of extra cash with a side hustle - painting, designing, gardening, whatever you’re capable of doing to keep yourself busy and earn a little money.
When you’re unemployed, it’s easy to feel like you’re not contributing, or as though your days are lacking a purpose. You might spend all morning scouring the jobs boards for new positions, firing off applications and researching potential employees in preparation for an interview, and then find yourself drifting through your afternoon. A side-hustle is the perfect way to keep your brain ticking over, to focus on something a little more fulfilling and gratifying. Besides which, an extra couple of quid in your back pocket is naturally going to make paying your next electric bill a little easier while you’re between jobs.
Online marketplaces like Fiverr are an excellent platform for creative types who can sell their talents online, such as designers and artists. Checkatrade is the perfect option for those looking to find some handiwork gigs, and you can even check out our “12 freelance job sites that actually pay well” article for a few extra suggestions.
Is there a career in your side-hustle?
Now a side-hustle doesn’t necessarily have to mean going self-employed, but it could be your opportunity to test the waters. Say you’re the artistic type, and you put some designs and products up on an online store like Etsy. If they can gain some traction and people are interested in seeing more from you, maybe you could consider making a business out of it.
If you’ve started a side-hustle and just don’t want to give it up, or discovered there’s some money to be made if you dived in a little deeper, then maybe it’s time to think about starting your own business. Don’t forget, by the way, that the taxman needs to know about any income you make - see our freelancing on the side article to find out more.
Start a business
A lot of people like to play with the idea of becoming their own boss one day, but find themselves falling back on the old “it’s not the right time” excuse. The truth, of course, is that there’s never a “right time” to go self-employed, so now is as good a time as any.Sure, the added uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 might have you thinking twice, but the pandemic hasn’t stopped thousands of aspiring freelancers and entrepreneurs from setting up their own business. Don’t believe us? Meet the people who started a business during the COVID-19 pandemic!
As online accountants for small businesses and the self-employed, we have dozens of articles and guides to help get you started here. Here are just a handful of the helpful articles you might want to check out if you’re preparing to start your own business:
- What is a sole trader?
- What is a limited company?
- What is a freelancer?
- 13 things to consider before going freelance
- How to start a business
How Crunch can help
As we mentioned in the previous section, we’re an online accountancy firm that specialise in supporting the self-employed. With over a decade of experience in our field, we’re experts on this subject, and we’ve helped thousands of people not only realise their self-employed dreams, but to help their businesses grow, too.
No matter what support you need, our expert accountants and friendly client managers are here to help you. Whether it’s setting up your business, deciding between sole trader or limited company, or finding the right accountancy support for your business, Crunch can help.We even offer a completely subscription-free, software-only version of our industry-leading online accounting software for both limited companies and sole traders, known as Crunch Free! You won’t ride in a car without seatbelts, so why would you start a business without accounting software?
If you’d rather discuss your options with our friendly, expert advisors, book a callback today and we’ll arrange a convenient time to see how Crunch can help.
Whatever option you choose, and no matter which route out of redundancy you choose to follow, remember that losing your job is never the end. In fact, often times, it’s the first step on a more exciting path.