advice needed - seem to be 'at risk' but not sure of fairness or process

(4 Posts)
MizZan Thu 27-Feb-20 10:21:34

Hi, I am looking for some advice on a redundancy/being managed out situation.

Our company acquired another one in a very similar area 10 months ago and the resulting reorganization has been lengthy and very opaque, and is still ongoing. Without providing all the background, I was told yesterday by my manager (who's not actually formally my manager, and who came over from the new company) that the position I'm in as a (small) team leader will be disappearing, and that a new team leader position will be created in my area but at a higher level, with responsibility for managing a few additional people who are covering the same area, came over from the acquired business, and will be combined with my current team. I've already been working with them, though not directly managing them.

On this basis my manager said they are opening the new position up for interview. While I was told I'm welcome to apply, I was also told that others would be applying and that there wouldn't be a possibility for me to remain in my current team as a contributor if I don't get the higher role. In other words I'd be made redundant, though this word was not used. My manager said there were a few people in the business who were going to be put 'at risk' including me. He said he himself had recently 'gone through the same thing' and been told that he would lose his job if he was not successful in the interview process (he is however based in the US) - thus implying clearly that I was definitely in the same situation. I asked if this was a formal notification and the response was 'no, not yet'.

I was then told that I'd be given more information 'soon'. I queried why I could not simply be mapped into the new role despite basically already being in post and having performed well, and the response was that because it's managing a few more people and an additional product, they want to open it up.

It's clear to me that there's another person my manager has in view for this new role, even though it's an obvious (and not very big step up) move from my current one. I asked if I could remain in the team as a contributor if I wasn't successful in applying for the new role, and the response was pretty vague but implied it was unlikely as no additional contributor role was in the plan, which was already going through approvals. It was mentioned that a few other positions might be opening up in other parts of the business, but realistically I'd be far less of a fit for those and it's not even clear what they are yet.

It's been extremely stressful trying to lead my own team and products and be in a very client-facing role, and contributing actively to integration planning for my areas, while in a state of total uncertainty over the past 10 months. Having heard this news, which was really a surprise, I'm not sure what my rights are nor what is best to do.

I've worked completely cooperatively with my manager, as well as with my counterpart and her equivalent team in the same area from the company we acquired, to develop new product plans etc. When she was still in post, it seemed possible (and wouldn't have been very surprising) that she would ultimately be given the combined team leader role - however instead she very recently moved into another role in the business, so, I'm the obvious candidate.

At no point over the past 10 months had it been discussed that there would need to be redundancies in my team or in the combined team - indeed I have been asked to recruit new team members and done so, during this period. And and at no point in the many discussions in which I was asked to contribute recommendations on team structure and product plans was it ever implied that I myself wouldn't have a place in the team. I feel like I've been really poorly used.

They are clearly expecting me to carry on as normal and I'm being asked to continue being client-facing, managing the team, continue with planning for new products etc. I've been successful in my current role but feel I'm being managed out and that my job is becoming untenable due to stress and lack of visibility about my future with the company, and a real breakdown of trust with the management.

It's a FTSE-100 company but has no HR team to speak of, which always seemed strange. I've been there 4 years.

Do I have any rights here? Obviously I will start looking for another job as soon as possible, but given I am 50+ and in a fairly specialised field I don't think this will be quick. This whole situation feels not only super-stressful but also really unfair.

Grateful for anyone who has experience or can advise - at this point I don't even know whether to follow up in writing, or what is best/what if anything I can do to protect myself. Thank you for your help.

OP’s posts: |
maxelly Thu 27-Feb-20 12:18:33

Hello - yes you have rights, you have the right to be appropriately consulted (along with any of your colleagues also affected) about changes to your role and any potential redundancies, to be considered for the 'new' promotion role fairly alongside any other applicants, to be given access/consideration for any other suitable roles which exist in the company, and if ultimately your role does disappear from the structure and no suitable alternative exists, to notice of redundancy as per your contract and statutory redundancy pay (or enhanced contractual redundancy pay if this is in your contract/T&Cs).

However you don't have the right to simply continue in your current role if the company have legitimate business reasons for wanting to restructure and remove that post, and it doesn't sound to me as though they have done anything 'wrong' as yet. It sounds as though your manager was trying to help you by informally giving you a warning of what's likely to happen so it doesn't come as a horrible shock when formal documents/processes start...

I don't know why you necessarily assume someone else is earmarked for the new promotion, it sounds to me as though they are going through a fair and open process opening it up to all applicants and putting them through a selection process, and as your boss has pointed out, this is something which has been happening throughout the business not just for your job? It's generally considered good management practice where promotions are available to advertise them internally and then interview for the job, rather than just giving it to whoever they want as this tends to lead to resentment and lack of trust, which ironically is what you are complaining about! Of course I do understand this is all very stressful for you and fully understand you are stressed, just trying to give a neutral perspective

If it was me, I would certainly apply for the new job (assuming you want it of course and don't just want out at this stage in which case different advice applies!). If you feel it would be helpful, there's no harm in summarising what you feel the key points of the conversation were in an email to your manager so you have that as a record, and looking for other jobs potentially not a bad idea either. Worth also exploring as far as you can what other opportunities in the company there might be and work out how you feel about that in advance so you are prepared.

If they are doing the consultation/redundancy process properly it sounds as though you are likely to have some time though, allowing for say a few weeks for the new job to be advertised and appointed to, then probably at least a few weeks formal consultation period (we do 30 days as standard at my company for redundancies) if you don't get it, then your notice period (which will be at least 4 weeks), I certainly wouldn't be expecting to be out on your ear tomorrow if you see what I mean (or if they want to play it that way then you could feasibly negotiate a good pay off in exchange for leaving quickly, enough to tide you over for a good few months). So don't panic, take it one step at a time. Consult with ACAS, your trade union or an employment solicitor for more information about your rights (ACAS have some good info on their website you can read up on).

Good luck!

MizZan Sat 29-Feb-20 11:44:31

Thanks @maxelly for the balanced and helpful advice.

It's not the case that all promotions since the acquisition of this other firm have been opened up for interview or advertised internally. Many have been made without that happening, including some very senior ones for new roles. This would have seemed like an obvious one to just place me into, as there is no longer anyone but me for whom it would be an obvious next step. It's a real slap in the face that that hasn't happened and that on top of that now being told I will lose my job entirely if I'm not successful in interviewing for the 'new' one.

That is one reason I'm nervous about this and feel I'm likely being managed out. The other is that there are several other people in the acquired business who had worked closely with my new manager and are likely to lose their positions as the products they work on are being discontinued. They have some expertise in my area. From my manager's evasiveness, and what I've observed of his general approach, I am 99% certain that his intention is to put one of those into the role. He didn't at any point in the conversation express that he understood what he was telling me was a disappointment despite the clear message that I was likely to lose my job in the near future, on top of not being given the slightly broader new role. Indeed he finished off the conversation by encouraging me to add yet more extra work to my plate by starting to do customer interviews about how we're reshaping our products. So I'm definitely confused and feeling this is not a person I can trust at all.

None of these other individuals have been involved in our planning for my product area over the past 8 months, and they've obviously failed to lead their own product successfully since it's being discontinued, so it would seem a strange decision, but I guess there seems to be nothing I can do about this unless I have a basis for claiming unfair dismissal, such as discrimination of some kind?

I think it's very unlikely the interview process will be a 'real' one - based on the other interview processes that have been held for new roles, the outcomes seem predetermined other than in cases where it's really a totally new role that hadn't existed in any form previously (arguably not the case for this one - and even in those cases people were still mapped into many of them without it being opened up to interviews). Nor have there been any redundancies made as a result of people not getting these roles, so the situation was different.

While a few other roles may become available, I think it's unlikely I'd be seriously considered for them, and I almost feel like by applying I'd be shooting myself in the foot.

It''s not the case that they advertise roles internally for several weeks - the previous few they've advertised have normally required people to indicate interest within 4-5 days, after which it's closed to applications and interviews start.

I also only have a 4-week notice period contractually. And I doubt it will be the case that there will be 20+ redundancies.

So, realistically, if this is formally announced on Monday, I could find that I'm made redundant just a few weeks from now, with the contractual 4 weeks notice plus 3 weeks redundancy pay to take me forward? This definitely won't be enough time to find a new job in my area, and at my age, though i'm starting to look right now.

Frankly I'm completely demoralised and stressed, after 10 months of working on planning and delivering for this team in good faith and pitching it to clients, only to be told this. I'd far rather just take a redundancy offer now if it's a good one than go through all this...

Does that initial conversation with my manager count as a 'consultation' legally, even though he said it wasn't a formal notification? If i send him a summary of our conversation, does that imply I consider it the start of the consultation period or that I've been notified? Should I express my surprise and disappointment or is it better not to do so?

It's so frustrating having observed people who were massively underperforming hitting this company for huge payoffs for unfair dismissal type claims when they got let go, while I've sat here like a muggins doing my job well in good faith, and feel like I'm about to get screwed. Bleh.

Thank you again for the help and welcome any further advice on the above. There's no union, by the way, and I did call ACAS but they said they couldn't really advise until processes had started.

OP’s posts: |
daisychain01 Sat 29-Feb-20 14:02:42

Does that initial conversation with my manager count as a 'consultation' legally, even though he said it wasn't a formal notification? If i send him a summary of our conversation, does that imply I consider it the start of the consultation period or that I've been notified?

I wouldn't suggest you write to him or intervene in the process (which hasn't formally started yet). Keep detailed notes of what was said, date etc. It is doubtful, if they haven't confirmed in writing the formal start of the consultation process, that they could retrospectively claim it was. Consultation normally (not always) includes an invitation to staff to suggest alternatives to job losses which the company are duty bound to consider, albeit not necessarily act on. I recognise there isn't a mass redundancy situation, but companies have some latitude beyond the bare minimum in how they manage the process. It has to be honest, transparent and compliant to legislation.

Albeit I can totally get that you want to 'rip off the sticky plaster' because this process has felt long arduous and uncertain, your aim at this stage is to extend your employment there as long as possible, to buy you more time, so I would consider this as a time to watch and wait, keep your head down and keep being cooperative in your day job. Don't give them any excuse to want you gone!

See what happens with the interview for the new management position and pull out all the stops to secure an interview when it's advertised, showcase your knowledge and aim to be selected. You've got one chance to make it work, if it's just that one role available to you.

Be mindful of the result of that interview, that if you suspect any discrimination due to your age, eg if they want a younger person in the role rather than that they were the best candidate (eg lower salary/benefits, longer time to give in the role etc), you can ask them to give tangible evidence of their selection criteria and any points system used.

You can also use that as a catalyst to negotiate an improved redundancy package. Seek legal advice if it gets to that stage.

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