Redundancy, Mental Health & the Employer

Mental Health and the Employer - human figures against grid background

April 2019

Redundancy, Mental Health and the Employer

human figures against grid background - Redundancy, Mental Health and the Employer

Early in 2019, Honda confirmed its intention to close its Swindon car plant in 2021, with the loss of some 3,500 direct jobs. Not to mention the related jobs in Honda’s supply chain. The company’s Swindon plant is its only EU base, building 160,000 Honda Civics a year.

Those affected will now be dealing with a range of emotions.  In a previous post we’ve examined mental health in the workplace in general. But this worrying news from Honda makes it timely to explore workplace mental health in relation to redundancy and the particular problems it brings.

Euphemisms for Redundacy

When companies are firing their employees they often draw on the gamut of euphemisms used to soften the bitterness of the pill.  They talk of downsizing, outsourcing, rationalisation, organisational change, company review or restructuring. In Honda’s case they cited global changes in the car industry and their need to launch electric cars, claiming Brexit not to be an influence. Here is not the place to debate that.

Yet it makes no difference what spin you put on it, when someone is fired from their work their emotions tend to follow similar patterns.

Loss of Identity

Redundancy is now more commonplace than it was a generation or so ago. The old notion of the job for life and the gold watch at the end of many years of faithful service is long-gone. Ergo, redundancy doesn’t, for some at least, have the same level of negative connotation that it did a generation ago. It’s almostbecome a fact of working life.

Faceless queue of people

That said, for someone that’s been in one job for well over twenty years – as is true for some of Honda’s workers – their redundancy notices are likely to be a bitter blow. When someone’s been in one job for a long time they tend to have invested a lot, oftentimes too much, of themselves in it.  Thus, losing it might lead to a loss of identity – a feeling of having no function. Returning to the old-job-for-life society of old, retirement often had the same effect. 

In addition, self-confidence can become eroded the longer the joblessness goes on for. Society goes to work – if you’re not, then that can be tough. Men in particular are vulnerable here.

This 2018 article from the Telegraph, about how to deal with redundancy, discusses the relationship between job loss and mental health. James Laurence, from the University of Manchester, observed that certain factors magnified redundancy’s negative effects. Such as having redundancy forced upon them rather than choosing it. He found that those who’d had redundancy forced upon them – like Swindon’s Honda workers – had significantly lower senses of self-confidence . This in both their employability and in general.

Moreover, the more an individual valued their job, the greater was their post-redundancy loss of confidence. Studies comparing those forced to resign with those who chose to, found higher levels of depression in the former along with a reduced tendency to look for new work. And, even if they did get another job, they often remained depressed, lacked commitment to it and worried more about losing that job. These tendencies were much less marked in those who’d chosen redundancy.

Common Reactions to Redundancy Notice

The one saving grace that the Honda workers have – if we can call it that – is that they have time to prepare for the end. It’s a small crumb of comfort from an otherwise unpalatable cake. Because of course it happens too often that too many workers have no prior warning or sense that their job is going. Either way, the typical reaction is physical shock alongside classic grief symptoms. Because make no mistake about it, job loss is a bereavement and incurs the same reactions:

  • Shock
  • Disbelief
  • Anger
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Loss of confidence and a sense of ‘why me?’

It’s not hard to see the potential detrimental effect on mental health.

How do we then cope with losing that which we don’t expect to lose? And here I’m referring to both employer and staff. For Honda, firing 3,500 people might be nothing more than collateral damage. But for the small business owner, having to fire staff is as distressing to do, as it is to be the soul or souls on the receiving end.

Go-Legal can help with Mental Health and the Employer

Should you be an employer facing this situation, Go-Legal HR will advise and support both you and your staff through the process.

We will help you ensure you have a meaningful redundancy consultation process and assist you with making correct redundancy payment calculations.

From giving your staff enough time off to look for work to your redundancy selection criteria there’s much for you the employer to think about.

Done well, you can at least limit, if not remove altogether, the potential detrimental effects on your employees’ mental health. We’re here to help you through it.

Don’t wait. Get in touch with us now and arrange a consultation. 




Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace

October 2018 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace

October 2018 saw World Mental Health Day That recent event presents an opportune time to look at the implications of mental health in the workplace. Because if you’re an employer, the mental health of your staff is part of your responsibility.

Taking care of your staff

Developments in Mental Health awareness are placing the onus on employers to create an atmosphere in which your staff can feel comfortable in approaching you about their mental health concerns. The mental health charity, MIND carried out research demonstrating that, in many workplaces, employees are fearful of expressing their problems.  This is bad for them and costly for you in all manner of ways as they point out on their website:

  • When asked how they’d been affected by workplace stress, over 21 percent of respondents – that’s one in five – stated they’d taken time off sick to avoid going to work.


  • Asked how they’d been affected by workplace stress. 14 per cent admitted to resigning and a further 42 per cent stated they had resigned over workplace stress.


  • 30 per cent of staff that MIND spoke to disagreed with the statement ‘‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’ and – on a positive note –


  • A whopping 56 per cent of employers stated they wanted to do more to improve staff wellbeing but worried they lacked the right guidance and training.

If you are an employer, the MIND website has lots of great free resources to help you here.

Mental health scrabble tiles

The Law and Mental Health in the Workplace

Although the term ‘mental health’ is not, in itself, a legal definition, it’s clear that employers face a legal obligation to act to get a handle on workplace mental health and meet the legal definition of disability.

But first, what do we mean when we speak of ‘Mental Health’?

Personnel Today, in their article on the law and workplace mental health, defines it as: ‘a continuum that includes emotional well-being, mental health conditions and mental illnesses.’ As they state, mental health fluctuates in the same way as mental health. Though of course, we all have a different experience of mental health.

Personnel Today share several headline statistics on workplace mental health. For example:

  1. One in six workers suffer from anxiety, depression and unmanageable stress each year.
  2. 74% of people with a mental health problem for more than a year are out of work.
  3. 55% of those with depression or anxiety for more than a year are out of work. And – of great concern …
  4. … 49% of workers spoken to stated that they’d be uncomfortable disclosing a mental health issue at their workplace.

Difficult reading?? Even more difficult is the realisation that, in economic terms these statistics translate to 2015 seeing 18 million absence days from mental health conditions, and workplace mental ill-health cost.

The Employer’s Role

The Health and Safety Executive website has information for employers concerning stress and mental health in the workplace – much of which concerns itself with:

The Stevenson Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review

As the HSE website states: In 2017, the government commissioned Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) to independently review the role employers can play to better support individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace.  What the ‘Thriving at Work’ report does is to set out a framework of core standards/action that it recommends employers of all sizes, put into place.

The review designed these standards to help employers improve the mental health of their workplace and help individuals with mental health conditions to thrive – not only survive.

If you act on work-related stress, whether it be via the HSE standards or a similar approach, you’ll meet parts of the core standards framework and:

  • Form part of a mental health at work plan
  • Raise awareness, reduce stigma and promote communications
  • Provide a means to monitor actions and outcomes.

The Management Standards

You’ll find full details of the HSE’s management standards here.  But in brief they are:

  • Demands– Including issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control– how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support– Including encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships– Including promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role– whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change– how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

So there you have it – an overview of the employer’s role in regard to workplace mental health.

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