Have you been made redundant? Do you think you might be soon? Here is our exclusive 5-step redundancy guide for wherever you're at in the redundancy process.

It helps you prepare for redundancy, absorb and share the news, look at the options available to you, and give advice for when you leave.

Redundancy guide contents

  • Redundancy guide step 1: Prepare
  • Redundancy guide step 2: Absorb the news
  • Redundancy guide step 3:Share the news
  • Redundancy guide step 4: Explore your options:
    • One: Look for a new job straight away
    • Two: A complete career change
    • Three: Take a career break
  • Redundancy guide step 5: Leave your job

Redundancy guide step 1: Prepare

Redundancy very rarely comes out of the blue. Usually, there are weeks or months of rumours, letters sent out by HR, mutterings from bosses about 'tightening our belts', you get the idea.

This can make you feel anxious - for some people, the not knowing is the worst part. But it's also an opportunity for you to start planning, in case it's you that gets the chop.

First of all, make sure you know your redundancy rights. This isn't just about making sure you get the pay you're entitled to. It's also about making sure you're not booted out unfairly. Click here for the UK government's redundancy rights page.

Fish out your employment contract to check things like terms of redundancy (in case there are more generous terms than the statutory allowances). You might also want to check your notice period and details specific to your workplace, like confidentiality (see 'transferring work', below).

Next, update your CV. Make sure it's ready to go out at a moment's notice. If you want your CV to make it to the top of the pile, it's worth getting professional help to make it sparkle.

Depending on your personal circumstances, you might also want to check what benefits you will be entitled to when you're out of work. Use these benefits calculators to work out what you could get. If you're worried about your pension, contact the Pensions Advisory Service for help.

Depending on the nature of your job, you might want to start transferring examples of work, personal documents etc, onto a memory stick so you can put them on your computer at home. Remember that you might not own the copyright to the work, and some of it might be confidential.

So, now you're prepared for getting made redundant - whether you keep your job or not.

Redundancy guide step 2: Absorb the news

This is a step that many practical guides to redundancy miss out. The emotional impact can be dramatic - getting made redundant is right up there on the stress-o-meter with moving house and getting divorced.

So it's important to take some time out to absorb the news.

Getting made redundant feels like rubbish. Your logical brain might tell you that it's stupid to feel like that, as it's not your fault. But you will probably feel rubbish anyway. Common emotions amongst the newly-redundant include:

  • Feelings of rejection
  • Feeling inadequate (there's often a rather horrid part of you that tries to tell you that you're not good enough and that's why you're now out of a job)
  • Anger (especially if the useless receptionist who spends more time talking about the X Factor than doing any work gets to keep her job)
  • Determination ("I'm not going to let this get me down")
  • Happiness. Yes, happiness, joy, elation… Sometimes, redundancy is the kick in the bum you need to leave a job you didn't really like, or change career. (There’s more about this in Step 4.)

As soon as you've been told that you're getting made redundant (or as soon as you can), go somewhere you can be on your own. Take a walk, or lock yourself in the toilet! This gives you time to cry, shout that your boss is a ****, wail 'why me', punch the air with joy at leaving this dump, or whatever. You need to do this in private so you don't damage your career (more about this in Step 5).

When you've calmed down and the news has sunk in, go to Step 3.

Redundancy guide step 3: Share the news

Unless you're employed as a hermit, your redundancy is going to affect the people around you. Once you've got your head round it, it's time to tell others what's happening.

First, obviously, tell your partner (and kids, if you have them and they're old enough to say something helpful). If the rumblings of redundancy have been around for a while, this might not be such a shock, unless you've kept it to yourself until now. Your partner will hopefully provide you with moral support, and a calculator so you can sit down together and work out how you're going to manage on one salary.

Next, tell other close family and friends. Mainly for more moral support and commiserating in the pub, but also because your personal network might come up with a new job opportunity or possible freelance work. They can also give you advice on your career break or career change if that's what you're doing (see Step 4 for more on your options).

Finally, tell work people. This doesn't just mean colleagues (who probably already know anyway) but also other people in your industry, suppliers, clients, contacts who work at competitors, the guy who delivers sandwiches, etc. These people are the most likely to help you find a new job. Be upfront with what you want - sometimes it will just be information (eg who's hiring, or the name of the person to send your CV to) but you might want them to pass on your CV or put in a good word. Most people will be happy to help so don't be afraid to ask!

Now everyone knows, you're ready to move to the most exciting step: exploring your options.

Redundancy guide step 4: Explore your options

This is where getting made redundant goes from being a horrible event to one that's actually kind of exciting.

It is an opportunity to make some changes that you've kind of been thinking about for ages but never really got around to.

You've got thousands of options open to you, and they fall into 3 basic categories.

One: Look for a new job straight away

This is the most obvious and the one that most redundant people opt for (sometimes because they don't realise they've got other choices). There are many reasons you might opt for staying in the job market:

  • You've got people depending on you. Usually this means kids but some people support their partner, parents or others.
  • You've got serious financial commitments. This usually comes in the form of a mortgage, and because you're not a bank, the government won't throw money at you if you run out of cash.
  • You don't have much money. Even without a mortgage or dependants, if you have no financial cushion, being out of work for a long time is not really an option.
  • Hardly anyone does your job. In a boom time this is an advantage because you can call the shots, but when cuts are made, it can mean that openings for your specialist role are few and far between. (Don't forget about transferable skills though - read the rest of the options for more about these).
  • You like security and don't like taking risks.
  • You love what you do.

Whatever reasons you have for wanting to find another job right away, if you followed the advice in step 1 and step 3, you will have done a lot of the groundwork. So you can get on with posting your CV on job sites, filling in applications, and contacting companies on spec to see if they have any vacancies. But before you do, consider the other options available to you.

Two: A complete career change

Maybe you have been pondering doing something different for a while.

Redundancy could be the catalyst that propels you into a new career! Career changers sometimes have a firm idea about what they want to do next. If you do, now is the time to start your research.

  • Talk to people in your chosen field. If you don't know anyone, search online for forums related to the area you want to work in, then ask your questions there. It's also worth contacting the professional body (usually called an association or institute).
  • Have a look over your CV and see what transferable skills you have. These could be enough to get you into a new career - but it doesn't hurt to have a little something extra (see the section on career breaks, below, for more about this).
  • If you need training, research how long it will take, and, most importantly, how much it's going to cost. If money's an issue, speak to the training provider to see if there are any grants you can access.
  • If you need a qualification, find out exactly what is acceptable - outside normal academia (degrees, NVQs, etc), qualifications can be a bit of a minefield. Check the job ads to see what qualifications they demand, and if they state 'equivalent', contact the HR manager to see what that means.
  • Remember you're going to be starting back at the beginning. Some people find the cut in pay easier to tolerate than the reduced status - especially if you have to make your own tea! There's not a lot you can do about this, except to remember that it's better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than halfway up one you don't care about.

What if you want a career change but you're not really sure what to do?

You might have a vague sense of wanting to work with kids or animals, you could yearn to do something 'creative', or it might be simply that you want a job you love. If this is you, take a look at the suggestions below:

  • Make a list of the things that you want to be doing without being specific to one kind of job. This could be 'managing people', 'making a difference', 'solving problems' or 'being creative'. You can also add what kind of environment you want - are you happy with a desk job or would you rather be always on the move?
  • Think about what you currently do in your free time, and what sort of things interest you. Even if it's only 'sitting on the sofa watching Coronation Street', that can still be an indication that your new job should involve working with lots of other people, so you can gossip round the water cooler.
  • Have a look through the job ads in the paper or online to see what sounds appealing. Many are organised by type of work, so you can search all jobs in retail, for example, or everything in health. Make a shortlist of all the jobs that appeal to you - and don't worry if they're wildly different, this is about exploring all the options open to you.
  • Then, once you've started to form some ideas about the general field you'd like to go into, you can start researching specific jobs, to see what the pay is like, what career path you could follow, and so on.

Three: Take a career break

Well, seeing as we are The Career Break Site, this was bound to come up sooner or later!

We see a lot of people using their redundancy as a career break opportunity. Why?

  • Your redundancy pay-out can help fund it.
  • It's a chance to take some time out to discover what you really want to do.
  • You can dip your toe into some of those other sorts of jobs you might have been thinking about (as discussed above). For example, you can get a taste of teaching by doing TEFL, or see what environmental management is really like on a volunteer conservation project.
  • If your CV is a bit floaty-light, or you need to brush up on your skills, a career break is a brilliant opportunity. There are loads of training courses (eg instructor courses) which will develop your leadership abilities as well as giving you practical skills. Volunteer work abroad is good for chucking you in at the deep end where you'll learn things like communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and possibly how to light a fire in the rain.
  • The skills you learn on your career break are those transferable skills that we talked about earlier. So, while knowing how to paddle a canoe might not be directly relevant to a career in law, it shows that you can learn, make decisions quickly, follow instructions and handle a crisis. It also shows any potential employer that you're not afraid of a new challenge, and that you spend your free time constructively.

Fortunately, you're in the right place if you want to take a career break now. Have a look at all our career breaks here.

Now you've done all that, you're ready for the last step: Step 5: Leaving your job.

Redundancy guide step 5: Leave your job

Finally, the most exciting bit. Leaving your job.

Because it wasn't your choice to leave, you might feel resentful, sad or angry.

If you were thinking of leaving anyway, you might feel happy or relieved.

Or you might not feel anything!

If you've followed our guide thus far, you hopefully shouldn't feel too anxious, as you'll have already made some plans for your next step. If you haven't, don't panic, as you can still go through all the planning and decision-making (start at Step 1).

Regardless of how you feel, make sure you don't burn your bridges. This could involve telling your boss what you think of him/her, setting fire to the HR department, or even just slagging off the company in the pub after (natural though that is). Staying on good terms, even if it means smiling through gritted teeth, is important for your next job (not only for contacts, if you're staying in the same industry, but also for a reference).

Here are the things you should take when leaving the building:

  • Your P45 (obviously)
  • Money. This will be your redundancy pay plus your holiday pay. If you haven't worked your notice, you should be paid for this period too.
  • A letter showing the date of your redundancy
  • Any files, documents or paperwork that could be useful and which you're allowed to take
  • Personal items from your desk drawer, except that over-ripe banana you never got around to eating.

It will feel weird at first, of course, so try to have a couple of days of doing normal, undemanding stuff before you embark on whatever options you chose in Step 4. Then, you can start scouring the job ads or looking at career break opportunities, or do whatever's the next step in your post-redundancy life.

Good luck! And please tell us how you get on!