HR in a World of Recession – Why It’s Time to be a Pole Vaulter, Not a Limbo Dancer

Do not make recession your obsession, just remember to forget it and you’ll be ok

Mina Tadros
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By Kathryn Rodgers

I’m going to start with a disclaimer – I nicked the pole vaulter analogy from my good friend Pete Colby at Pragmatism. He’s awesome, and much wittier than me. 

If we didn’t already know, then today’s BBC article has confirmed it – we’re in a recession. What does that usually mean? We look to save money. What’s typically the biggest cost for an employer? Their staff, and the costs associated with employing them. Salaries and on-costs are the obvious ones, but then there’s training and benefits – and HR support. 

HR in a World of Recession

It’s absolutely a good idea to look at your structure and see where you can make changes to secure your company’s future. However, cutting everything back to the bare minimum for legal compliance (AKA limbo dancing) might not be the right thing to do right now, and here’s why… 

The rules for making people changes small businesses ARE different – what’s reasonable for a company of ten people is very different to what’s reasonable for a company with 1,000 staff. For example, if you go to the ACAS website and look at the employer’s guide to redundancy, you’ll see that there’s no minimum timescale for consultation – it just has to be “meaningful.” 

Now, reading that, it’s tempting to run as short a consultation period as possible – saves management time, saves salary costs, gets it over and done with, right? However, if you can’t reasonably answer questions, deal with challenges and provide responses in the time you’ve planned for a consultation period, then it’s probably not “meaningful” – which leaves you wide open to potential unfair dismissal claims. Having the right HR support in place helps you avoid that. 

Cutting HR support means you’re going it alone – and doing so in uncharted (and extremely turbulent) waters. We don’t really know what the next few months will bring, but I’m already seeing an increase in employee issues across my client base. They’re dealing with reduced engagement, higher turnover, more grievances, higher absence levels with more complex backgrounds… and that list is only going to get longer. 

Rather than spending hours trawling the web to find answers to your people questions, investing in HR support means that someone else will do that for you, and provide expert advice tailored to your business. 

Investing in the right advice now could save you an awful lot of time and money in the future.

Let’s look back to the last recession in 2008. Widespread redundancies and employee unrest led to an increase in employment tribunal claims. The waiting list to have cases heard went up. It’s looking extremely likely that the same will happen again and, while waiting periods will vary around the country, those in the know are predicting that by January, it could take over a year for cases to be heard.

Having HR support in place means that not only will you have someone who will help you avoid legal issues in the first place but that if they do come up, you’ll have someone who can step through them with you, and look for ways to resolve them without having a figurative axe hanging over your head for months on end. 

So, before limbo dancing alone, think about how much better it would feel to have someone help you be a pole vaulter right now – and, if you’d like to have a chat about how I can do that, please feel free to get in touch. 

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