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Coping with pandemic pitfalls – addressing retrenchment

Coping with pandemic pitfalls – addressing retrenchment

Natalie Rabson on behalf of Boston City Campus

“Possible lockdown retrenchments are already soaring” (Sarah Smit, 29 June 2020) These are headlines we have been seeing for a few weeks, and they are getting worse as employers begin retrenchment processes, reduce office space and staff allocations, and even close businesses. Some industries are still severely affected by lockdown and some businesses may never recover, this includes the restaurant; travel; and beauty industry. The sports industry has also suffered, as well as print media and advertising. Ok – so it is every industry.

According to the CCMA’s 2018-2019 financial report, in that whole year,  38 588 workers were the subjects of section 18a retrenchments. In less than the three months between 1 April 2020 and June 25, 2020, 98 818 workers were the subjects of section 18a retrenchments, an increase of 156%. Tito Mboweni in his supplementary budget speech said “unemployment is our single greatest challenge”.  While memes abound about the silver linings that we must see in this pandemic, the harsh reality is that families need to eat, and unemployed people need to be creative in how to develop opportunities for themselves to earn a living.

What are the first steps to follow when you are retrenched?

  • Speak to your HR department and find out exactly what you are entitled to, eg termination dates.
  • Find out what legal options and recourse you have regarding your job and salary, retrenchment pay, etc.
  • Get your UIF (unemployment insurance fund) details, and signed documents, from your employer. Submit your documents if your employer does not do this on your behalf.
  • Contact all institutions where you hold credit, bond, bank, etc, and inform them of your situation, and agree to payment plans for the short term…
  • Try and meditate every day, it is easier to approach your problems with a calm and clear mind.
  • You may request a meeting regarding alternative options to retrenchment eg reduced pay, reduced working hours, a lateral move in the organisation using different skills you may have.
  • Whatever you do, do not display anger, or a temper. You will need your employer when new opportunities arise either within the organisation, or as a reference in a new organisation.
  • While you are in a difficult spot, make sure to look after your physical and mental health.
  • Put a plan in place to seek employment. Update your CV with references, your latest skills upgrades you have done, qualifications, and job description. And begin to network.
  • Develop your skills including social media skills. Rely on your social network to find opportunities for which you may apply, or to recommend you.

Education and new skills appropriate for the fourth industrial revolution were already at the forefront of recommendations to address retrenchments, now, since the start of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to have skills to offer an employer, or to allow you to open your own business, or side hustle. You need basic accounting skills and marketing, with a focus on digital marketing skills, to be successful in any business especially as so many now operate remotely and online. Logistics has become highly in demand as retail moves into warehouses for online sales. Professionals and managers that have found themselves out of work should consider registering for the Postgraduate Diploma in Management, an all-encompassing deepening of critical skill sets with which to surf the wave of change that is breaking, (for the holder of any undergraduate degree). A degree will put you ahead of other job seekers, this is a time to stand out in order to succeed. Higher Education is back in the spotlight.

Visit www.boston.ac.za for more info.

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