Redundancy always deals a heavy blow. Coping with the financial difficulties of losing your job is often the most pressing concern, but finding yourself out of work can also affect your mental health and relationships.
To help you bounce back after redundancy, we spoke to experts from the Money Advice Service, Mind, Relate and Citizens Advice about how to cope with what can sometimes feel like overwhelming issues.
Speak to loved ones
After being told you’ve lost or are likely to lose your job, it’s crucial to be as honest and open with your partner as possible and tell them straight away.
If you know being jobless is in the pipeline but your partner is very ill or has a lot on their plate, however, Relate counsellor Peter Saddington recommends waiting to have that discussion until you know it’s definitely going to happen. He advises couples to talk over their worries, feelings and plans to tackle the situation together, “even if your plan is simply that you’ll wait until you have more information”.
Talking to your children is also important. “For young children under the age of 11 you might say ‘mummy or daddy is going to be stopping their work for a while’,” Saddington explains.
“The children need to know that you’re still going to be okay. Explain to them that there may be some changes but that you’ll still all be living together as a family and that there’s nothing to be scared of.”
For older children, Saddington recommends being straightforward. Tell them you’re facing redundancy and aren’t sure what’s going to happen, but avoid going into lots of detail about issues such as getting into debt or how to pay the mortgage.
“You can explain that while you’re a little worried, it’s nothing for them to worry about themselves. It’s good for children to know that things can go wrong in life and it gives them a chance to see how you resolve any problems that might arise as a family,” he says. “The crucial message is that any problem can be dealt with if you talk about it and support each other.”
Manage your money
Managing your finances after redundancy can be stressful but there are some steps you can take to make life easier. Your first step should be to check if you will be entitled to redundancy pay, advises Tracey Moss, employment expert at Citizens Advice. If you’ve worked for your employer for at least two years you’ll be entitled to either statutory or contractual redundancy pay. How much money you receive will depend on the length of your employment.
“If you’re made redundant because your employer has gone into liquidation, contact the Redundancy Payments Office [a Government-run service],” says Moss. “They will cover statutory redundancy pay, plus holiday pay, notice pay and up to eight weeks of wages if you haven’t been paid yet.”
The Money Advice Service, a body supported by the government to offer free and impartial financial advice, recommends using their redundancy pay calculator and planner. The calculator provides a summary of your legal rights and straightforward advice on how to manage money.
Once that’s out of the way, you’ll need to work out your budget. If you do need to cut back spending, you could switch bill providers or review your shopping habits and you might also be entitled to benefits or a grant while you look for a new job. The main benefit you can claim while out of work is Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Universal Credit if you live in an area where it’s already been rolled out. But there may be other benefits available to you, depending on your personal situation, such as tax credits or help with housing costs.
If you’re in debt, Moss recommends prioritising your debts so your rent or mortgage payment, council tax and utility bills are paid with what money you have. “If you have other debts, like credit card debt, contact your card provider to explain the situation and see if your payments can be reduced. For further help with this, contact Citizens Advice.”
In addition, ask your lender whether your mortgage, loan or credit card is covered by insurance, as if you lose your job or are too ill to work, you might be able to make a claim.
Find a new job
If you’re yet to leave the company that’s making you redundant, Moss recommends asking for a written reference from your manager while you still can. Then you should update your CV. “Think about the skills you’ve picked up on your most recent job so you can demonstrate the experience you have and show you’re a good employee,” she advises.
“Your local JobCentre can help you find a new job and may even pay for you to have training,” says Moss. “Ask for their Rapid Response Service who specialise in helping people who have been made redundant. Additionally, ask friends, family and former colleagues if they know of any suitable job opportunities for you.”
Look after your mental health
Job loss can understandably take a drastic toll on mental health. Men are especially susceptible - one in seven men develop depression within six months of losing their job, according to figures from Mind. It’s thought this is because men, in particular, often define themselves by their profession.
“Regardless of gender it’s crucial that people have access to support to help them overcome the day-to-day challenges they might face,” says Rachel Boyd, information manager at Mind. “We know that difficult life circumstances, such as debt and unemployment, can have a huge impact on our mental health. If your feelings are impacting your day-to-day life, then try opening up and talking to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Visiting your GP is your best bet as they can outline the different options available to you.”
With the immense pressure of providing for your family hanging overhead, it can be tempting to dive headfirst into getting back on track and finding a new job pronto - however it’s not always the best route to take. Boyd explains: “When facing a big upheaval like redundancy, you might find that you focus on the practical steps you need to take. But these events can be stressful, and it’s important to find the space and time to look after your wellbeing too.
Self-care techniques, alternative therapy and general lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms of stress or mental health problems and prevent things from getting worse.
Physical activity and being outdoors, for example, have been proven to boost mood and improve mental wellbeing. Diet also plays a crucial part in boosting mental health. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables; sticking to regular mealtimes; choosing foods that release energy slowly (like oats and unrefined wholegrains); and cutting down caffeine intake, alcohol and sugary foods - especially in the evening, as they disrupt sleep - are all advised.
Understandably, sleep is crucial in helping you stay mentally buoyant. To get a good night’s rest, Mind advises making sure the light, temperature and sound level in your bedroom suits you, and avoiding electronic devices.
Last but not least, mindfulness may help. The practice helps people observe the way they think and feel about their experiences, whether good or bad, which can be useful for increasing self-awareness of thoughts and feelings. This in itself can help people develop more helpful responses to difficult feelings and events - like redundancy.
But it’s worth noting that while mindfulness works for some people, it’s not recommended for everyone. Rebecca explains: “Becoming more aware of thoughts and feelings can initially make some people feel worse, especially if you’re feeling very unwell when you begin.”
Where to find support
Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am-6pm, Monday-Friday). Visit www.mind.org.uk for lots of information about depression, treatments and what support there is in your area.
If the redundancy is putting a strain on your relationship, you might want to consider counselling. Relate Centres take financial circumstances into account and it may be that you only need a session or two. You could also try Relate’s free Live Chat service where you can talk to a trained counsellor via instant messaging. Visit www.relate.org.uk to find out more.
Mental Health and Money Advice is a new service by Mental Health UK that combines support for mental health issues through a dedicated website providing a range of information and financial tools.
For help with money issues, contact the Money Advice Service, StepChange and Citizens Advice. Find out more about cutting the cost of your loans on the MoneySavingExpert website. Best balance transfers on credit cards can also be found on the MoneySavingExpert website.
If you’re finding it difficult to see a way forward or are feeling suicidal, talk to Samaritans for free on 116 123.