6 tools to help you manage redundancies and changing staff needs
Small and medium businesses struggling to stay afloat in tough economic times may be faced with the need to reduce staff. And for many of these businesses, the legal processes of redundancies, reducing staff hours or mandating leave without pay are uncharted territory.

If you’re an employer who needs to cut staff hours or make staff redundant, you’ll need to manage the legal and practical steps, as well as the emotional toll.

Here are tools to help you communicate and advice to help you manage this complex and stressful process as smoothly as possible.

Templates to help you manage changing staff needs

Navigating the legal territory and process around staffing needs can be tricky. HR and people management software platform, Employment Hero has developed a range of free templates to help businesses through these challenges.

These six templates have been designed in consultation with a team of experienced employment lawyers and HR experts, and can be found at the Employment Hero hub, along with a range of other tools. They include:

  1. At risk of redundancy notice
    To confirm that an employee’s position is at risk of redundancy.
  2. Termination due to redundancy notice
    To confirm that a position will be made redundant.
  3. Redundancy withdrawal letter
    To explain that a decision to make a position redundant has been withdrawn, in light of the JobKeeper Payment scheme.
  4. Reduced hours agreement  
    To confirm that an employee’s hours have been temporarily reduced.
  5. Stand down notice  
    To confirm that an employee will be stood down without pay following the Government’s decision that certain businesses cannot operate due to COVID-19.
  6. Notice to end stand down
    If you’re ready to ramp up business again or ending a stand down to make use of the JobKeeper payment.

Understand the legal requirements

Getting on top of the legal requirements can be a minefield without the right know-how, says Samantha Myers, Marketing Operations Manager at Employment Hero.

Firstly, employers need to understand:

  • Whether they qualify to stand staff down. Note that a stand-down may be full (not working at all) or partial (working fewer hours).
  • Whether they need their employee's approval to reduce their hours.
  • Whether or not they are entitled to exercise any of the new provisions enabled by the JobKeeper directives.

Knowing which of these three categories you fall into will determine what steps you need to take to enact the changes, Myers says.

“Each have their own different legal requirements and getting them wrong could see you in hot water with Fair Work.”

Before you take any action, it’s important to understand your obligations and follow the correct procedures as advised by Fair Work.

Be open and supportive with staff

While you can’t control how your workforce has been impacted by recent events, or what the future will bring, you can control how you communicate and support your staff through this period of unknown.

Even if you don’t have the answers, it’s important for your staff and their wellbeing that you be as open and transparent as possible.

“Effective communication is so vital, as in so many other business and workplace situations,” Myers says.

“When staff members understand the context in which their roles are being impacted, they are more likely to pull together and work with you to improve the business’s situation.”

It can also help to give employees a clear understanding of how their hours could increase or return to full time, and whether they can assist the business with that.

Keep a paper trail

It's also important to protect yourself when talking to employees by keeping an accurate paper trail, Myers says.

“Make sure whatever communication you do have with your employee around changes to their employment, you keep a record or audit of all communications.”

Refer to the Fair Work website to read more about redundancy, facts about fair dismissal for small businesses, plus information about COVID-19 and workplace laws.

If you’re facing the need to reduce staff hours or make employees redundant, it can add stress and an emotional toll to already tough economic times. But being open and supportive with staff, using available tools to help you communicate and keeping track of your communications may help you to navigate the process more smoothly.

Information provided in this article is general only and it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. SEEK provides no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability or completeness. Before taking any course of action related to this article you should make your own inquiries and seek independent advice (including the appropriate legal advice) on whether it is suitable for your circumstances.