Getting Started

What is outplacement?

The term outplacement was coined more than 30 years ago by the founder of a Chicago based career consultancy. With the increased rates of downsizing, rightsizing, redundancies and layoffs, during the 1980s and 1990s, businesses increasingly found a need for some form of assistance in reducing the trauma of redundancy for both departing employees and those who remain. Indeed, research shows that losing one’s job is one of the most stressful experiences a person can face other than death and divorce.

Wikipedia says Outplacement is the support service provided by responsible organisations keen to support individuals who are exiting the business (voluntarily or involuntarily) – to help former employees transition to new jobs and help them re-orient themselves in the job market. An outplacement consulting firm usually provides the outplacement services which are paid for by the former employer and are achieved usually through practical advice, training materials and workshops. Some companies may offer psychological support.

Outplacement is either delivered through individual one-on-one sessions or in a group format. Topics include career guidance, job search skills, targeting the job market, resume writing, interview preparation, developing networks, and negotiation.

Consultants support individuals seeking a new job, and also those looking to start a new business, retire, or structure a portfolio of activities. Programs have time limits, ranging from a few weeks to more extended periods, such as 12 months and are offered at all levels of the organisation.

Outplacement provides former employees structure and guidance towards their new career option, and preserves the morale of those who remain in the Company who see that colleagues are given the necessary support when they leave the company.

What you must do

1. Planning

Start to think about who you need to consult with, advise and involve – inside and outside your organisation. Once you know your timescales and how you want to handle any retrenchments you can plan for involving external people (such as lawyers and outplacement consultants) and internal people (such as payroll, HR and line managers).

Planning what changes you need to make and establishing the business case for these changes is essential. There are many activities a business can consider before they make redundancies to potentially mitigate the need (for example, finding other suitable internal roles for employees).

If, in the end, redundancies are still required it is critical to have a fair process to manage who is selected. Ask an Industrial Relations Specialist to work with you step by step throughout the planning process if you haven’t done this before or if you need some backup. Contact Outplacement Adelaide if you would like a local contact for an Industrial Relations specialist who understands redundancies.

See the Link at “Useful links and Events” to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website for useful information that you can download – such as a Notice and Redundancy Calculator and the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code and Checklist

2. Talk to Centrelink / the Department of Human Services if you plan to dismiss 15 or more employees.

Centrelink says “You need to give us written notice if you plan to dismiss 15 or more of your employees. The Fair Work Act 2009 requires you to notify us as soon as possible after making the decision and before dismissing any employees.”

Even if you plan to dismiss less than 15 employees it can be helpful to contact Centrelink and ask them if they will provide information or a speaker for your employees, so they know how redundancy payments will affect their ability to claim Centrelink benefits. This is something many people who receive larger payouts are unaware of so this can be a real help. Centrelink can also clarify when people should contact Centrelink, what they need to provide to Centrelink and how soon they can claim any Centrelink benefit.

To check what you need to provide to Centrelink and to obtain the correct form to give notice to Centrelink, click on the Centrelink link in the Useful Links and Events section of this website. This will let you download the most current form and let you know how to contact the right section of Centrelink.

3. Check this is a genuine redundancy.

Start by looking at the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website (see the link in “Useful Links and Events”). You will find information there to help you determine if this is a genuine redundancy. It is always worth talking through your plans with an Industrial Relations specialist or/and an Employment Lawyer before you make any final decisions, especially if you haven’t planned and managed redundancies before. If you don’t know who to ask call Outplacement Adelaide for some local options.

4. Consultation

All awards and registered agreements have a consultation process for when there are major changes to the workplace, such as redundancies. When to start consultation, how long it should be, and what exact information to include, are all questions an Industrial Relations specialist can help you with.

The consultation process sets out the things an employer needs to do when they decide to make changes to the business that are likely to result in redundancies. This has to be done as soon as possible after the decision has been made to make these changes.

Consultation requirements include:

  • notifying the employees who may be affected by the proposed changes
  • providing the employees with information about these changes and their expected effects
  • discussing steps taken to avoid and minimise negative effects on the employees
  • considering employees ideas or suggestions about the changes.

Make sure you read your awards very carefully to ensure you consult appropriately.


Sunset photo kindly used with permission from Damian Janitz Photography.