What To Look For

What to look for when choosing an employment lawyer

Remember the best time to consult a lawyer – indisputably – is before a problem even arises. Prevention is better than litigation!

Look for a lawyer you can trust – with expertise in the legal aspects of redundancy. Ideally, you will know a lawyer you can trust from having dealt with them previously. If not, is there a trusted friend or colleague who can recommend a lawyer to you? If you know a lawyer you can trust, even one who does not have expertise to meet your need, ask them if they are in a position to refer you to several lawyers who have expertise in the area (better than picking a name out of the yellow pages at random!).

The Law Society can also help. They will give you names of 3 lawyers who practice in an area of law you specify. You can call them on 8229 0200 or send an online query here.

Always ask about legal fees at an early stage. Most lawyers can quote you an hourly rate; some will even give you a fixed quote for a particular stage of work (e.g. charging a certain amount for filing a Defence to an Unfair Dismissal Claim).

Lawyers are often told, “I want this so watertight that I will never be sued”. Unfortunately that is just not possible. It is all too easy for a claim to be brought against you. All a lawyer can do – and it can be worth a lot – is to advise you and possibly set up documents and procedures so that, if a claim is made against you, the chances of its success are minimal. You cannot eliminate the risk, but you can minimise it.

What to look for when choosing an outplacement provider

Look for an experienced outplacement provider who can provide testimonials from satisfied clients. Your outplacement provider should be tailoring what they offer to match your needs and should discuss with you:

  • Pre-announcement support for you and your managers
  • Onsite, on the day, support for managers delivering the news
  • Onsite, on the day, support for the people directly affected by retrenchment/redundancy
  • Individual programs (they should advise you about an appropriate length of program and should be able to offer something to fit your budget if it’s tight)
  • Group workshops

The best outplacement programs provide ongoing support (as opposed to merely a 4 week or 8 week program), as it is often the case that, when the individual has not been able to find a new job after a number of weeks, that’s when they need the most help. Of course, these programs are more expensive than a 4 week or 8 week program (see the section on our website on outplacement program prices for a guide to the range of prices you can pay).

deally you want to use a company that tracks the re-employment success rate of the people they help, to help evaluate their services.

Selecting an Outplacement Consultant or Provider

What background should I look for in my outplacement consultant?

  • There is no one background or set of qualifications that makes someone a great outplacement consultant. You will find psychologists, recruiters, human resource consultants and management consultants providing outplacement services.
  • The best thing to do is to meet with them and suss out:
    • Are they personable, flexible, experienced and able to provide all the knowledge and support your people need?
    • Ask them how they handle:
      • Psychological distress in retrenched workers.
      • Requests for the consultant to travel to the retrenched workers location for meetings.
      • Retrenched workers who are unfamiliar with computers.
      • Anything else that is important to you and your retrenched workers
  • Ask them who have they worked for in the past and how soon their previous outplacement clients found employment.

Do memberships matter when choosing an outplacement provider? Should I look for a member of a particular organisation, or a particular qualification in my outplacement consultant?

Memberships and qualifications don’t guarantee a successful match to your retrenched workers.

If your outplacement consultant has qualifications in human resources, psychology, or career development – or is a membership of the Australian Human Resources Institute, Career Development Association or the Australian Psychological Society, for example – that can be an indication they have relevant training. More relevant is finding an outplacement consultant who has the right expertise in outplacement and the right attitude – an outplacement consultant who can demonstrate successful results with past retrenched workers.

Memberships are an indication of expertise but it doesn’t guarantee a person’s key area of expertise is in the provision of quality outplacement services.

Ask potential outplacement consultants – who have you provided outplacement services for before? what will you provide for our retrenched workers and our managers? and what employment results have your past clients had?

What outplacement services might you want included from your outplacement consultant?

When you compare outplacement service providers – use this checklist to assess who offers exactly what you need.

 Outplacement expertise

Do you want your outplacement consultant to have helped many retrenched workers to successfully find employment, previously? Ask who they have helped and what results they get. How long does it take their clients to find work, typically? Does your outplacement consultant have references or testimonials so you can be sure they are experienced and will provide a great service?

 Psychological expertise

Do you want your outplacement consultant to help retrenched individuals to manage the emotional aspects of retrenchment/redundancy? Does your outplacement consultant take time to build a positive mindset in retrenched workers they are helping? Outplacement is far more than helping someone write a resume, it’s important that your provider can provide support to help people cope with the shock and build their resilience. A positive mindset is key to finding future employment. Ask your provider if they have the tools and techniques to build wellbeing.

 Change management workshops.

Do you want your managers to know how to effectively manage reactions from staff, during a time of change and transition? Workshops for managers and staff can help encourage staff retention and assist people to manage their emotions, and the emotions of their team effectively. Does your outplacement company provide the option of workshops for managers and staff remaining in the organisation?

 Information about Centrelink.

You may appreciate help in knowing if and when to contact Centrelink – and whether and how to involve them. Does your outplacement consultant know when you need to liaise with Centrelink, can they help you contact Centrelink?

 Services at a variety of locations.

Does your outplacement consultant offer face to face appointments near to the home location of your retrenched workers? You want your people to use the outplacement service you pay for, so, if your workers are immediately leaving your work site, seek out an outplacement company that will arrange individual appointments near to where your retrenched workers live. Many retrenched workers are reluctant to travel into the city and pay for parking to visit an outplacement consultant and so may stop using the service.

 Help to maintain the company image

Will your outplacement consultant help maintain your organisation’s reputation? You want your outplacement consultant to provide reassurance to retrenched workers that the redundancy was legitimate and genuine, thus helping avoid legal claims against your company that can take up time and create bad feeling. You want an outplacement company that emphasises to your retrenched workers the need to maintain good working relationships with your company.

 Fair fees

Does your outplacement consultant guarantee not to charge a fee for individuals who do not take up the program at all? (If the outplacement service was just for one person then there may be a call out fee for the on the day onsite support provided, if the individual program does not go ahead).

Does your outplacement consultant reduce fees for retrenched workers who find a new job within 1 month (if they are on a 3 month program, for example).

 Flexibility

Does your outplacement consultant run a flexible program where breaks, with no loss of service, can be taken by the retrenched worker for holiday leave or sick leave? (If you have paid for a 2 month program, for example, can your retrenched worker take a break, with no loss of days, if they decide to have a 2 week holiday in the middle?)

Note: Ideally you don’t want retrenched workers to delay the start of their program (you want to make sure they have emotional support at the start, someone to keep an eye on them, and someone to talk to if they have any questions such as “was this a genuine redundancy?”); but it helps if your outplacement provider is flexible with regards to holiday leave in the middle of a long program.

 Links to other sources of help for retrenched workers

Is your outplacement consultant knowledgeable about local programs to help retrenched workers? Will they provide links to free or low cost local programs and services such as: training programs; the Automotive Transition Program; or advice on setting up a small business?

 Assist with alternative pathways.

Is your outplacement consultant equipped to manage retrenched workers who want help to explore alternative pathways such as: starting up a small business; finding training to change careers and transitioning into retirement?

 Does the outplacement company provide a comprehensive outplacement manual or workbook for each person they work with, containing examples of resumes and cover letters and useful information to back up what is covered in workshops and individual meetings with the outplacement consultant?

Is big necessarily better when choosing an outplacement consulting firm?

There are different types of outplacement consultancy. Big isn’t necessarily better.

In Adelaide there are big firms and “one man band” consultants, there are also ex-recruiters and “resume builders” who have moved into the outplacement space. Whether you choose a big firm or a “one man band” – you could find the same outplacement consultant delivers the service, because big firms sometimes use local self-employed consultants as contractors to supplement their in-house outplacement services.

If you are hiring a very large outplacement company – check:

  • Do they have rigid processes or contracts?
    • Do they charge you based on the number of workers retrenched rather than on the actual take-up of the service?
    • Do they insist clients meet them at their offices, or will they travel to the retrenched workers suburb?
    • Who will be working with your retrenched workers? Is it the person you have been liaising with?
    • Do they use contracted associate consultants? If so, who are they and what experience do they have?
    • Are they responsive to your requests for information? Will they tailor information and packages to suit your needs?
    • Are they quick to set-up an agreement with you and flexible with regard to the date they need to be on your site?

What if I am retrenching many workers and need a big outplacement team?

Self-employed consultants are often well-networked and can draw together an experienced team when needed for larger assignments. Ask your provider how many outplacement consultants will be working with your people, who they are and what expertise and experience they have.

Who is a really good outplacement service provider in Adelaide?

Ask other managers in Adelaide which outplacement consulting firm they used, who they were happy with and what price they paid. You can also look at the websites of outplacement consultants to see if they have testimonials from happy clients. Remember, many companies want to keep it a secret that they have retrenched staff so some consultants may not have many testimonials but they will probably be happy to provide references, if asked.

What’s important in choosing an outplacement consultant?

The key to a successful outplacement program is a flexible, tailored service delivered by a personable, knowledgeable, expert, outplacement consultant. If you have time, ask to meet the outplacement consultants(s) who will work with your retrenched workers, in advance of choosing a provider – so you can assess them.

Big firms may offer extras such as an on-line system or psychological testing. These tend not to be preferred by outplaced workers so may be of limited benefit.

Retrenched workers like face to face help and plenty of additional access to their consultant via phone and email, to provide individual assistance, feedback and advice on resumes and applications.

Big firms usually have their own contracts and standard terms and conditions. Read their long contracts carefully and ensure you get the service you want (for example, ensure you are not paying a price per retrenched worker, even for individuals who never see the outplacement consultant and never obtain the outplacement manual).

What does outplacement in Adelaide cost?

Bigger firms tend to be pricier for the same services. It’s wise to ask for a quote and check what it includes. Don’t buy an outplacement service based merely on price, though, as the cheapest services on offer may be from those with less experience and less expertise.

Check what the price includes. Does it include onsite, on the day, support, for example?

Onsite on the day outplacement support

Usually an outplacement consultant will include contact with you and the manager delivering the news, and on the day onsite support for the manager and the individual directly affected, as part of their package.

This onsite support typically includes:

  • briefing and debriefing the manager before and after they give the news of retrenchment / redundancies to workers;
  • meeting the affected retrenched workers immediately after they have been given the news that their position is being considered for redundancy, or has been, made redundant.

At this first onsite meeting with the retrenched worker, the outplacement consultant will be able to:

  • briefly assess the retrenched workers emotional state and ability to drive home
  • check that they have understood the message given to them
  • answer questions
  • recommend what they do for the rest of the day (typically go home and share the news with a friend or family member)
  • liaise with the workplace with regard to things like collecting personal belongings and getting home safely
  • provide the retrenched worker with brief information about who they are and how the outplacement service will support them
  • make an appointment to call them later and/or to meet with them the following day

Typically outplacement services comprise:

  • Group workshops
  • Individual Programs

or a combination of the two.

Individual programs are the most common form of outplacement service as they provide the most tailored support.

What can I do if I am retrenching many workers and have a small budget?

If you need to keep outplacement costs down, one option is to provide some group workshops and some individual outplacement face to face meetings with an outplacement consultant. If you have a large group of people whose positions are about to be retrenched, and you are happy for them to meet together for group workshops, this can be the most cost effective way to provide outplacement support.

This approach works well only when:

  • You are happy that it will be productive for the retrenched workers to meet as a group (i.e. there is little tension, anger and resistance amongst the group)
  • The group will be working out their notice so it’s easy for them to come together for a workshop at one place
  • The group are likely to share the same goals (e.g. will be seeking future employment)

The combined workshop and individual sessions approach provides input to many retrenched workers all at once plus some individual help to address individual issues (tailoring resumes, career change etc). It can be an option for those organisations with a small budget who still wish to provide some help to their retrenched workers.

Outplacement workshop prices in Adelaide (2016 – 2017)

Typically you can expect to pay around $2750 per day for outplacement workshop design and delivery by an experienced outplacement consultant (pro-rata this figure at 60% for half day workshops).

Outplacement program prices in Adelaide (2016 – 2017)

Individual programs are costed by the number of weeks or months that they last (and this is determined by you, the client). Typically a 4 week program will cost $2,500 in Adelaide, per person. (This is the program many organisations offer junior or mid-level retrenched workers with tenure under ten years).

A three month program (typically offered to retrenched executives, retrenched workers over 50, and others who may need longer support or support for career change assistance) is likely to cost between $4800 and $7000, per person, in Adelaide. An unlimited or one year outplacement program in Adelaide can cost from $12,000 (with an individual experienced outplacement consultant) to $19,800, or more, with a large outplacement firm.

Ex-recruiters or resume builders turned “outplacement consultant” will often charge significantly less than these prices, but may not offer the required range of help and the depth of expertise.

What’s included in a typical individual outplacement support program?

A good outplacement program is tailored to the needs of each individual. It should offer all of these as options:

  • Advice and tips for the manager(s) delivering the news onsite
  • Onsite, on the day, support for managers and individuals directly affected by the redundancies.
  • Face to face individual help for the retrenched worker – on everything from staying optimistic, managing your mindset, choosing a career direction, resume writing, finding the hidden (unadvertised) jobs and interview skills.
  • Examples of cover letters and resumes, plus individual coaching and help to write an excellent resume and covering letter tailored for each position
  • Interview skills practice sessions and feedback (covering the “does your face fit” interview and the competency interview using the SOAR technique)
  • Retirement planning assistance (look for an outplacement consultant with some knowledge about this, for example, one who is certified to run the Age Management Program)
  • Advice about when and how to approach Centrelink
  • Self-marketing and networking skills
  • Help to find other useful resources (training, free programs, local services, etc)
  • Job search skills (including the use of recruitment agencies, the benefits of networking and the effective use of online tools to find jobs)
  • Self-employment – guidance about the first steps in considering self-employment and the resources available to help.
  • Portfolio careers advice – helping retrenched workers to manage their career in a way that fits their dreams and lifestyle 

Should I offer retrenched workers the choice of an outplacement program or cash?

In short – No! Outplacement programs help protect the organisation from unwanted consequences and show that you care. (However, discuss with your outplacement consultant if there may be individual exceptions such as for retrenched workers who you know are very happy to be retrenched and want to retire).

The redundancy payout that you give to retrenched workers is totally separate to any outplacement support you offer. The redundancy payout will be determined by legal requirements and the contract your workers have with you. If you need help calculating redundancy pay entitlements look for the link to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website – redundancy pay and entitlements calculator – in “Useful Links and Events” on this website)

An outplacement program should be offered to all retrenched workers because it benefits both your workplace and the retrenched workers.

Outplacement is of enormous help to retrenched workers, not least because it helps them manage the emotional shock of their position being made redundant. (They are thus less likely to react negatively or threaten legal action).

Retrenched workers would be tempted to take a cash offer instead (if it were offered) because they won’t understand the benefits of the outplacement program in helping them find work more quickly. The benefit to the organisation of having each worker take up the outplacement program is that you know they have emotional support and encouragement to move forward effectively. You are less likely, then, to see workers that you want to retain reacting negatively to “what has happened to their colleagues” as they will see their ex-colleagues are being supported.

Retrenched workers with outplacement support are also more likely to feel supported and less likely to feel hard done by. They are going to be reminded, by the outplacement consultant, of the need to maintain an effective relationship with the company, not least for the purpose of references. They will also have an external person to encourage them to understand that this was a genuine redundancy (the position was no longer needed although they were valued) and that the retrenchment was not personal.

The outplacement program is invaluable…but retrenched workers don’t know it. Make the best decision for the welfare of your organisation and the individuals who are being retrenched – offer an outplacement service.

How to brief your outplacement provider

Call a few outplacement providers as soon as you are able and ask if they are available to help when you need help. Request a quote or meeting. To get helpful quotes, it helps if you can outline:

  • The number of workers you may retrench
  • Whether you would like:
    • an individual service for the retrenched workers and, if so, how many weeks of outplacement support you’d like to provide; or
    • group workshops; or
    • a combination of both.
  • Any budget restrictions
  • When this might happen (ie when the employees will be given the news and when the outplacement services will be needed). Emphasise these are provisional dates and may change!
  • Outline the site(s) where the workers to be retrenched are located / the sites you’d like the outplacement consultants to attend when they provide on the day site support.
  • If possible, provide the home suburb / general regions (North Adelaide, South Adelaide) of the workers to be retrenched – so the outplacement provider can let you know if they will travel to those suburbs/areas to provide the individual outplacement meetings, or if they expect the retrenched workers to attend appointments in their city office.
  • Whether the retrenched workers will be asked to leave the organisation’s premises on the day they receive the news, or whether they will work out their notice.
  • It’s also helpful if you can explain the reactions that you anticipate from retrenched workers and other staff. This gives your outplacement consultants a chance to advise and discuss with you the benefits of different approaches (workshops for managers, individual programs for retrenched workers, etc.)

Remember – you will be choosing the date to announce the news to staff to suit your processes and the availability of your managers. It helps if you can keep the outplacement consultant(s) in the loop about the likely date (and changes to that date), to ensure they can be available onsite to support your managers and retrenched workers on that day. This onsite support is very beneficial for managers (particularly those who have not been involved in delivering the news of redundancy before) and for retrenched workers.

 

Sunset photo kindly used with permission from Damian Janitz Photography.