IT’S been a bleak year on the job front: redundancy announcements every other day, doubts hanging over those big businesses who haven’t yet sharpened their pencils and wielded the axe, and surprise surprise, the doom and gloom merchants are already predicting a second successive year of decline in the semiconductor industry.

Truly depressing. But what – in my opinion – is even more depressing is the lack of focus on the people who have been made redundant. Redundancy is a traumatic and stressful time both for those who have to go and for those who are left behind, and there appears to be more concern about the impact on our economy than on the impact on the individuals and families affected by these awful events.

TV news reporters duly accost them outside their place of work, minutes after the announcement has been made, and capture on camera their anger, disappointment, bitterness and fear. Trade unions reps shout till they’re blue in the face, but can’t affect the ultimate outcome. And what happens then? Despite years of hard work, decades in some cases, these ex-employees are forgotten about, other than as a number in the unemployment statistics.

Some companies work hard to manage the redundancy process, protecting those chosen, and then allowing them to leave with dignity. Some can be really quite creative, just look at US Securities broker Charles Schwab, which persuaded workers to take an unpaid day of leave every month to defer job losses. In the UK Accenture is offering consultants up to one year’s flexi-leave on 20% of salary. And closer to home, Motorola has set up a careers centre and internet café with a range of public sector agencies, employment service, Inland Revenue advice, benefits agency and further and higher education bodies to assist those leaving to re-enter the workplace quickly and without loss of finance and confidence.

Making people redundant is probably one of the worst jobs in the world. I speak from painful and tearful experience. Just a week after my daughter was born I was back at work, baby in one hand and a bundle of P45s in the other. I had to tell a third of our workforce they had to go. It was an absolute nightmare.

That was before employment law got so complicated and before the processes that are in place now. We tried to pick those that would find it easier to get another job. A bit naïve, I know, but hey we were young and foolish. We did such a good job of helping them look for another job that everybody had one by the end of their notice period. I hated what happened, but I was proud of the ultimate result.

Employment law is an ass. I understand that legislation is essential to protect both employees and employers, but I’m not convinced that all this bureaucracy is flexible enough to allow the employer to make the right decision. Sure it sets out guidelines and processes and formats and systems to make the victim selection “easier”, but I doubt it allows for the human touch. How does it take into account the single mum, who has worked her socks off to bring up her two sons? And what about the guy whose wife has just had a baby, and they’ve moved to a bigger house with the resulting bigger mortgage? And what happens if you’ve got members of your family working in your team? Does the system take this into account too?

Following the letter of the law is important, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to break the rules, but you mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture; the businesses goals, your own aspirational goals, your people and the way you treat them, both those that go, and those that stay. Your integrity as an employer – and respect from your employees – depends on it.

From 10 Years Ago Today – additional recent legislation, mostly surrounding maternity and paternity rights, proves my point! I still haven’t changed my mind.