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Dealing with Redundancy in Consulting

If your consulting firm is making redundancies and you end up being on the receiving end of the ''I am sorry to tell you'' speech, the most important thing to do is not to take the news personally. Granted, being made redundant for whatever reason is a demoralizing experience, but making an effort to depersonalize it can go a long way in changing your outlook. So remember: your firm has made your job redundant, not your skills. In the recession especially, there is a huge difference between the two and consulting firms are certainly feeling the loss each time they go through a round of layoffs and voluntary redundancies.

If you are being offered a voluntary redundancy package, you would be ill advised to take it unless you have already secured a new consulting role. In the recession market, recruiters will usually think that, if you are redundant in one consulting firm, you will not be all that indispensable in the other one either. However good the voluntary redundancy package may look to you, you need to consider it against the option of prolonged unemployment.

If voluntary redundancy is not the case, the first thing to do after being made redundant is assess the redundancy package and your personal finances. Consultants faced with redundancy for the first time usually don't have a clear idea of the redundancy rights and benefits they are entitled to, so take the time to investigate these. Make sure that you know what your options are and that there are no benefits flying under your radar.

To assess your redundancy rights and payment to which you are entitled, first go over your contract. Other than being entitled to a notice period, during which you can go on paid leave, or get compensation in lieu, you also have the right to a statutory redundancy payment if you have worked continuously for your consulting firm for two years and have not refused a suitable alternative job offer from your employer without a good reason.

The statutory redundancy pay depends on your age, length of service (up to 20 years) and weekly pay (up to £380.00) and equals at least one week's salary for every full year of employment for employees aged 22 to 41 and one and a half week's pay for older employees. However, most companies will offer you better redundancy terms and you can find these in your contract. If your employer refuses to give you the statutory payment, you can make an appeal to an Employment Tribunal.

You can calculate the statutory redundancy payment due to you on the website of the Department for Business Innovation & Skills.

For any other queries regarding redundancy payment, The Insolvency Service has a helpline available to employees of all firms based in England, Scotland and Wales. The phone number is 0845 145 0004. You can also visit RedundancyHelp.co.uk for more tips on dealing with redundancy. Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) also offers free guidance on employment rights. The helpline number is 08457 474 747.

There is also the matter of your general redundancy rights. When making you redundant, your consulting firm must follow proper procedures and consult you before dismissing you. If they don’t, you have grounds to sue for unfair dismissal and could be paid up to 90 days' salary in compensation. If your consulting firm is letting go of more than 20 employees, this constitutes collective redundancy and the employer has to consult your union or an employee representative more than 30 days before giving you the notice (90 days if more than 100 employees are being made redundant).

You have the right to challenge your employer's decision to make you redundant. Procedure calls for the employer to explain why you are being made redundant and to meet with you and your representative to discuss the matter. If you want to contest the decision, the employer has to hold an appeal meeting and be able to justify the redundancy to you using a set of selection criteria against which employees were scored before the decision was made. If the redundancy is indeed justified, the employer should consider any other roles in the company that might be suited to your skills. If you know of any, this would be the time to bring this up. Once you have been dismissed, you will be given a small window (up to five days) within which you can lodge an appeal.

If your rights are being denied to you, you should talk to your employer first. If that doesn't yield any results, turn to an employee representative (a trade union official) for assistance in resolving the matter. If no amount of talking helps, consult a lawyer.

When your employer offers you a severance package at the 'dismissal meeting,' do not agree or disagree verbally to anything. Ask for the terms to be put in writing and do not sign the proposal until you have carefully considered everything that is on the table. Try to have your employer include transitional benefits (life and medical insurance, family income protection) and pension accrual in your severance package - it can be a significant amount of money.

In the meantime, update your CV and start looking for your next consulting job. Let your friends and business contacts know that you are on the job market. You never know where your next offer might come from. Use all the key employment channels - company websites, job boards, job advertisements in print and recruitment agencies - along with reaching out to your contacts. Cold calling is not a traditional way of finding employment, but if you are up to it, there is no reason why you should not do it. Finally, use the Internet to find out what firms are currently hiring new talent. The wider you cast your nets, the more likely you are to land your next job interview and subsequently a new consulting job.

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