What is redundancy?

Redundancy is also known as retrenchment or termination. With the changing nature of the workforce, it is inevitable that some jobs or skills may no longer be required while new ones are created. If you are made redundant it means that your position will no longer be offered by your employer.

Genuine redundancy means the employer will not make that position available to anyone else, there is no opportunity for the individual to be given an alternative position and the employer has followed all requirements regarding consultation and fair warning under the relevant award or registered agreement.

It is generally not a reflection of individual performance but a decision made by management to make their workforce more efficient or to reduce costs. This can happen for many reasons including:

  • A national or global economic decline.
  • A downturn in a specific industry.
  • A new management or staffing structure.
  • The introduction of automated procedures.


Who is affected by redundancy?

Redundancy is not new. It has occurred throughout history and is a normal part of industrialised change. For example we no longer have telephone exchange operators or messengers on horseback. However new technology has made the change faster than ever before.

Australia currently has an unemployment rate of around 5-6%. While many of these people are new job seekers, a significant number have been retrenched.

The instance of redundancy is generally higher for men than for women. This is because the industries that have had the highest rate of redundancy in recent years tend to have a predominantly male workforce – such as mining or car manufacturing. Women tend to work more in industries like health and education that have much lower redundancy rates.


What are the effects of redundancy?

Redundancy usually has both physical and psychological effects on individuals some of which can be long-lasting.


Your redundancy will likely have a major financial impact on you especially on your ability to pay the mortgage/rent and other major bills. You may need to move house, get a different car and possibly give up many lifestyle activities.


We all need to feel wanted and useful. We also love the satisfaction of being gainfully employed. Learning that we are no longer required can be extremely confronting and painful.

Being retrenched triggers a whole range of emotions including fear for the future, missing the friendship of colleagues and worry about the effects on family.

In fact it is well known that the stages of grief following job loss are similar to those that follow the loss of a loved one.

  • Anger – “How could they do this to me?” “It’s not fair”.
  • Denial – “I don’t need help”. “There is no problem – I can keep my head in the sand”.
  • Bargaining – “If only I did this, then that wouldn’t have happened”.
  • Depression – “It’s all too hard”. “I can’t take this any longer”.
  • Acceptance – “I can’t change what happened but I can change how I deal with it”.

The effects on those that retained their jobs can also be profound. They may feel guilty about still having a job, uncertain about their own future or team moral may become very low.

The flow-on effects of job loss can be overpowering for many people.  Heightened stress levels can lead to health issues like insomnia, addictions, anxiety and depression. Sadly, suicide is also a common outcome.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, it is important to seek professional help early.


Coping with redundancy

How well people cope with redundancy can be influenced by many factors including self-esteem. Some people can take it in their stride but others may really struggle to come to terms with the situation.

Don’t take it personally

The decision to terminate your position is often financial and is not a reflection of your ability to do the job. Learn to separate your identity from your job title. Instead, think of yourself as having particular skills that can be applied in other areas.

Talk about it

Don’t hold it all in. It is ok to admit your fears and frustrations and to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Talk to family members, friends and other colleagues as they can offer support in many ways.

Don’t make rush decisions

Give yourself time to reflect on the situation and don’t make snap decisions that you may regret later.

Move your goal posts

Most people have 5 or more different jobs in their lifetime. Before you apply for similar jobs, ask yourself if your career goals have changed and if that type of work still meets your needs.

Embrace the change

Often, when people are retrenched, they suddenly find themselves free to move in a new direction. Think about how the change can work in your favour. For example, you might turn your hobby into a business, return to study or apply for a job in a different industry.


Why seek professional help?

There are many decisions to make after redundancy and they can be extremely daunting. Professional counselling is available in several areas.

Practical help

Financial counsellors can help you assess your current situation, revise your budget and suggest changes for money management.

Career counsellors specialise in helping people determine their current skills and goals. They can give you practical advice and resources to help you reach your new goals.

Mental health

Dealing with the emotional consequences of redundancy is never easy. A professional counsellor or therapist can help analyse your emotions such as anger and grief. You might discuss things like what you loved about your job, how you felt when you went to work or how the redundancy may affect you socially.

Together you can come up with constructive coping strategies like doing regular exercise to release tension or changing any negative self-talk. Counselling can help you to develop your self-esteem and sense of identity so you gain the confidence to move forward and try new things.


Where to find help

Our True Counsellor Directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists and counsellors from Australia.

Some psychotherapists and counsellors listed in our directory offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.

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