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Monday 04 July 2016

Getting your redundancy sorted

By Craig Ryan

Two senior managers talk about their exhausting battle to secure redundancy rights and how MiP helped them to leave on the right terms.

Organisational change creates damaging uncertainty for everyone, especially people who don’t know whether they will be staying or going. For them, it’s hard to do your job and impossible to plan for the future. Yet, too often, the NHS redundancy process is dogged by incompetence, indecision and inexplicable delays, piling stress onto staff who want to leave and damaging morale and efficiency.

Senior NHS managers David and Kathy (not their real names) initially applied for voluntary redundancy in November 2014 after their arm’s-length NHS body was involved in a major reorganisation. “We saw the writing on the wall and there were all sorts of pressures on redundancy rights which were becoming apparent,” says David.

Deciding to give up their careers after around 35 years in the NHS was a significant step for the two managers and their team, making the subsequent delays particularly stressful for them both.

Laborious, closed-door process

Management deferred their applications several times without explanation. As their settlements were likely to exceed £100,000, approval from the Department of Health was also needed – “a difficult, laborious, closed-door process”, Kathy says, which dragged on for several months.

“We really didn’t know what was going on,” adds Kathy. “We got hints that things were being approved at higher levels, we were getting green lights, virtually being told to clear our desks – then nothing happened. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place, excluded from communications regarding the next steps for the organisation, but still without a decision about what was happening to us.”

After more than a year of indecision, David and Kathy contacted MiP national officer Pete Lowe. “Pete was able to give us an outside perspective, drawing on his knowledge of similar situations across the country” says David. “He told us not to get hung up on our individual situations… and to look at what sort of collective action we could bring to add more weight.”

Pressure at national level

Pete arranged regular telephone conferences with Kathy and David, and repeatedly pressed their case informally with management. MiP also raised the issue of delays to redundancy settlements at national level.

In March 2016, despite management having previously agreed that no suitable alternative employment (SAE) was available for David and Kathy, both were suddenly called for interviews for vacant posts for which they had no suitable experience. “We knew exactly who would get the grade 9 job and it wasn’t me,” explains David. “But by attending the interview I would’ve been admitting it was SAE.” Such an admission could have jeopardised his redundancy rights if he had then refused one of the lower-graded posts in the same line of work.

Pete helped David and Kathy to write responses explaining why the posts weren’t suitable, including a form of words which ensured they didn’t waive their redundancy rights. “To me, that was a breakthrough,” says David. “Heading that one off at the pass at the eleventh hour was a very important role that Pete helped us with.”

Just three weeks later, David and Kathy were told their redundancy had been approved and both finally left the organisation in April 2016.

Dedicated managers’ union

“Without a dedicated managers’ union like MiP, there would’ve been little incentive for the employer to address our members’ concerns in the way they eventually did,” says Pete. “And I think our regular telephone and email updates gave David and Kathy confidence in the support they were receiving from MiP.”

But this sorry tale isn’t quite over. At the time of writing, neither Kathy nor David’s financial settlements have been finalised. “We’re not likely to receive any money for four or five months. If it wasn’t for friends I would literally be going down the food bank,” says David.

“Unless my pension is resolved soon, I’ll be asking the union to take this over from me because I’m exhausted by the whole process,” he adds. “Just knowing I can get some assistance and perspective on this is very calming and comforting. So, we’ll keep paying our subscriptions – there’s no reason for us not to.”

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