Furlough provided a lifeline for many. Now, the government scheme that subsidised salaries to ensure those unable to work during the pandemic were still compensated (and less likely to fall into unemployment) is coming to an end.
No longer receiving government support, workplaces will have to make difficult decisions in reducing employees they are no longer able to afford – or need.
That means redundancies are coming. And, as the pandemic proved, certain groups may once again be at a disadvantage.
The past year showed how Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities are more likely to be in precarious work while also being more likely to contract and die of coronavirus.
So, as furlough ends and the deadline for employers to serve redundancy notices to anyone who was on furlough looms on October 31, many older workers, younger workers, women and minority workers may be left worried – with research shows discrimination is highest among workers who belong to more than one of these groups.
Career expert and interview specialist Judy Bullimore tells Huffpost UK: “We know how prevalent discrimination is in relation to race, even to ‘surnamism’ and ‘accentism’ (with traditional names and received pronunciation preferred).
“Research from the TUC that launched a call for evidence for BME workers to share their experiences of work during Covid-19, proved racism and discrimination [exists] at work, with 35% being unfairly turned down for a job and 24% feeling singled out for redundancy. ”
Fom her studies of employer psychology, Bullimore observes that recruiters often make decisions on whether to recruit applicants based on a “likeability” factor.
“Often this is hidden under the banner of their company culture and the ‘type’ of people they are looking for to join their organisation but to get through the various application and interview hurdles, candidates must almost demonstrate that they ‘fit in’,” she says. “This is where ethnic minorities are most affected.”
This same psychology can impact who is retained in a job – and who is made redundant. “It’s also important to realise that once a person received their official notice or decision of redundancy, this has a monumental impact on health, wellbeing and family dynamics. It could exasperate or bring about mental health episodes such as depression and anxiety,” says Bullimore.
How can people prepare for redundancy?
Prioritise wellbeing, confidence and resilience
Bullimore says try to avoid bottling up how this is really impacting you, reach and out and speak to family, friends or a professional.
A way to build confidence and resilience is to take stock of all of your achievements to date, the hurdles you’ve overcome personally and professionally and to ask a selection of colleagues, friends and family to describe you in three words.
This exercise is a great confidence booster because it will remind you of your unique attributes and what to hold onto as you start to prepare for your next career chapter.
Seek expert help and support (particularly if you’re in a disadvantaged group)
To apply for new jobs, you’ll need to show inner and outer confidence, perhaps when you’re feeling it least.
Getting a job is often about the words you use on your CV/application, and how well you present at interview, but know there is support on hand for this.
It’s a time to ask for help – Bullimore says this should ideally be from services or experts who are used to helping people career advice, CV writing and interview coaching – she has free resources on her website for those affected by redundancies and a video of useful tips and advice on interview confidence.
While government-funded schemes and resources may be useful, they can be limited and push you on to careers you may not want, she adds. But joining Facebook groups with people going through the same as you can be useful.
You’ll find further support and guidance in this pandemic redundancy guide.