HR professionals are set for 22 days’ worth of overtime in the second half of this year as redundancies spiral and workloads rocket, according to Randstad Risesmart UK.
Almost three-quarters of a million jobs have already been lost from company payrolls since the start of the crisis. But the scaled back coronavirus job retention scheme will close entirely at the end of October, at which point experts warn that permanent redundancies will start to rise.
In a poll of the experiences of 85 HR professionals working in firms employing approximately 50,000 people in total, the outplacement and career mobility firm found that every “vanilla” redundancy typically cost HR professionals 7¼ hours of work. But the research also highlighted the rising number of redundancies that don’t go smoothly because, for instance, they go to tribunal.
The number of non-vanilla redundancies now represents 28% of the total number of redundancies. While rarer, the research revealed that a difficult, non-vanilla redundancy represents 140 hours work for an HR professional. And a quarter of HR professionals say the percentage of redundancies that aren’t simple processes is rising.
Simon Lyle, UK managing director of Randstad Risesmart said, “Every situation is unique and it’s a different process for individuals compared to larger programmes . Typically, it’s a day’s worth of work per exit – a series of consultations plus the requisite prep over a two week period. Problems arise if cases go to tribunal. Then the process is longer and more resource heavy for HR departments – 4 weeks’ work. And cases might be even longer where, for example, subject access requests are made, and someone has to trawl through twenty thousand emails.”
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show redundancies rose to 227,000 this quarter, an increase of 113,000 on the prior year. But UK job losses could reach 700,000 by end of the year, according to the Institute for Employment Studies.
Given the scale of redundancies facing the economy, this will significantly increase the workload of HR professionals. While there are approximately 152,000 people that work full time in employment activities across the UK, the research highlights that only 65% are likely to be involved in the redundancy process.
Across the UK, combined, the extra workload HR professionals will be undertaking to make these redundancies is set to create 168 hours’ worth of overtime per full time employee over the course of the second half of 2020.
Simon Lyle said: “Make no mistake, this is going to take its toll on HR departments up and down the country. HRDs concerned for their teams can minimise workloads by reducing the number of cases that go to tribunal. HRDs can achieve that by doing all they can to ensure an employee has another job to go to and by making it abundantly clear the organisation is helping employees being let go to find another job – either internally or externally. Outplacement and redeployment services can make all the difference, not only to those being made redundant or an organisation’s employer brand – but also to the workload of an overstretched HR department.
“If there’s a plus side to this brutal amount of overtime, it’s that it should mean HR professionals will remain mostly immune from headcount cuts for the foreseeable future.”
Almost 10 million people (9,602,000) at more than 1m companies in Britain have been furloughed since the launch of the government’s wage subsidy scheme in March. The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that, when the furlough scheme ends, as many as 20% of furloughed workers would become unemployed.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefits is currently 2.7 million. But Professor Trevor Williams, of Derby University, former chief economist with Lloyds Bank, has predicted unemployment will peak at around 4.4million. The previous jobless peak of 3.28million was for the three months from March to May in 1984, the highest since records began in 1971.
Simon Lyle concluded: “Headline unemployment rates have been kept relatively low over the course of the pandemic, in part the result of the Government’s support measures. But the jobless rate is bound to rise – even in areas where businesses are being forced to shut but are getting two thirds of workers’ wages paid by the government via Rishi Sunak’s new furlough-style scheme. The government is fighting a losing battle against economic reality with programmes like the jobs support scheme and the furlough scheme. These schemes just put the jobs market in a holding pattern – but the plane is still running out of fuel. The jobs market can’t fly on indefinitely like this – it will cause economic pain for years to come. The Chancellor should take a leaf out of the private sector’s book and help people whose jobs are not viable to maximise their chances of getting new work. That requires fewer attention grabbing adverts and a more sophisticated approach involving the application of coaching, job concierges, smart technology, personal branding experts, and advice on relevant reskilling and upskilling needed.”