ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.
Exclusive content
Access to our exclusive resources is for specific groups of students and members.

It is a situation that many people will face at some point in their working lives. However, with the right support, it is possible to emerge from redundancy stronger, says Mark Blayney Stuart.

With the long-term effects of both the pandemic and Brexit trickling through to the wider economy, it’s a sad fact of life that many people may face the prospect of redundancy. While unappetising for anyone, being prepared will put you in the best possible position to move on.

“Being a chartered accountant doesn’t make you immune to the difficulties the economy is facing or the increase in redundancy we’re seeing nationwide,” says Kelly Feehan, Services Director at CABA, the charity supporting chartered accountants’ well-being. “Any financial professional, no matter how successful they are, could face redundancy".

Dealing with the psychology

Simon Coombs is Founder Director of Working Minds (see Further help, below) and a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). “The two cornerstones of why redundancy affects us so severely are around trauma and loss,” he says. “From there are additional psychological factors relating to mental health that come from those two things, specifically depression and anxiety.”

The type of redundancy you experience can influence the effect it has on you. “There’s the ‘slow-burner’ redundancy, which can take months – you know it might be on its way, then it becomes likely, then it happens,” Coombs says. Second is the sudden, unexpected redundancy. “Here, there’s no time to process what’s happened.” It is key, he says, to get closure. “That’s created by being able to say goodbye to colleagues. It’s how we can have a ‘good’ redundancy.”

Many people identify themselves with their role. “If we’re not careful, redundancy impacts directly on our sense of identity. This can be emotionally shattering,” Coombs says.

When Anna D’Souza was made redundant from her financial director role, the initial shock was replaced by the effort to get a new role during COVID-19. “The work I was doing was still necessary, so it was a surprise to be furloughed and a shock to then be made redundant. Being furloughed meant I couldn’t talk to the team, and it was difficult not knowing what was going on – I felt very much out on a limb.”

The knowledge that “it’s the role that’s redundant, not me as a person” got her through, she says, but the difficulty was the length of time it took to find a new employer. “I was down to the last two on a couple of interviews, but the landscape is now very different. There are hundreds of candidates per role.”

You need to train yourself in how to apply for roles in these changed circumstances. As so much sifting is now automated, if you’re not using the right phrases, the application may never get in front of a human’s eyes.”

Simon Coombs, Working Minds

Getting support and making plans

“Remember, you don’t have to struggle alone,” says Feehan. “CABA offers a number of free self-help guides on its website to help you deal with redundancy, as well as financial anxiety. There’s a financial well-being page with a tailored toolkit of free services and self-help resources, and there is also a dedicated section for parents and carers.”

Coombs points out: “You need to train yourself in how to apply for roles in these changed circumstances. As so much sifting is now automated, if you’re not using the right phrases, the application may never get in front of a human’s eyes.” Talk to recruiters for advice, he says, “and be clear about what you’re applying for in terms of a specific CV for each job. It’s unlikely you’ll get a response to a generic CV.”

D’Souza talked to recruitment consultants “for help with preparing my CV and improving my online profiles, what to do in a job search and for access to really useful resources”. She also joined LinkedIn and Facebook groups: “They have been a massive support.” Accept that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself and try not to be downhearted, she advises. “You can apply, not hear, chase the agent, not hear, so trying to keep positive is really difficult. Recruiters now study you on LinkedIn before anything else, so that is really worth spending time on.”

Use your networks, too. “Check in with old colleagues, mentors and managers,” says Feehan. “With so many others actively looking for work, having a foot in the door could very well be the edge you need.” Your network may be even more willing to help than usual, she adds. “Times are tough – everyone knows it. Brush off those old contacts and you might find that people are more willing than ever to give you a shout-out or put in a good word.”

Finally, be flexible in terms of what you apply for. “Someone who had a permanent job might only apply for permanent jobs,” says Coombs. “The trouble is, employers may offer temporary contracts to begin with, but they often become permanent.” In an era of temporary contracts, he argues, it is important to adapt.

Talking finance

Feehan points to a raft of additional support for ICAEW chartered accountants and their families. As part of its financial well-being campaign, CABA has extensive free, confidential services, including means-tested financial assistance in the form of monthly shortfall grants and donations for one-off expenses. Specialist debt advisers can help members minimise the impact of their debts through advice, information, budgeting and prioritising.

In addition, CABA can negotiate with creditors on your behalf, explore what benefits are available to members, help you navigate the benefits system and complete applications with you.

“Educate yourself on the benefits system,” Coombs urges. “It can be relatively painless nowadays and has probably never been more important.” And cut your cloth to your budget: “See what has to come out. Can you change energy provider, and so on? Taking control of what you can control gives you some certainty.”

The next role

From here, ensure your job hunting is as successful as it can be. “Be open to opportunities that you might not have expected, as well as to sideways moves,” Feehan says. For instance, can you widen your net and apply for jobs in other regions? “So many jobs can seemingly be done with nothing more than a laptop and a wifi connection. Since the pandemic, many companies have embraced the idea of remote working. The need to find a role in your local area may now be less pressing.”

Get familiar with virtual interviews. “Virtual hiring has become the new normal,” Feenan says. Be aware of the differences with doing it face to face. “Ensure you understand the designated teleconference platform, have an appropriate backdrop that’s well lit – and check your battery power!”

Think about the skills you can brush up on or if there are qualifications you can obtain in the meantime. D’Souza spends time volunteering. “I thought, I need to keep busy and I can’t look for a job all day, every day, when there’s no response. When you get away from the computer, you feel differently about things.” She helped in a local community shop and, later, helped a friend who runs an accountancy practice.

Future results

D’Souza’s story has a happy ending – she won a new FD role at the end of last year. “I applied in August 2020, but didn’t get contacted until October. The process can be slow. Don’t lose faith – you’ll get the role if you keep trying.

“Remember, too, to get help from friends and family. It’s terrible to hear about people who don’t tell anyone they’ve been made redundant. It’s vital to remove the stigma, as it can be all-consuming. Ultimately, a job hunt is like hide-and-seek. You do get found eventually.”

Further help

  • CABA is the charity supporting ICAEW members past and present and their close families. Email enquiries@caba.org.uk in the first instance. The 24-hour helpline is 01788 556 366. caba.org.uk
  • Working Minds is a mental health and well-being organisation, offering psychological therapy solutions for businesses and people, with a practical edge of support and advice. workingminds.org.uk
  • BACP is the professional body for members of the counselling professions in the UK, championing the power of therapy to change lives, and offering resources and advice. bacp.co.uk

Related resources

The ICAEW Library & Information Service provides full text access to leading business, finance and management journals and a selection of key business eBooks. Further reading on coping with redundancy is available through the articles and eBooks below.
Terms of use

You are permitted to access articles subject to the terms of use set by our suppliers and any restrictions imposed by individual publishers. Please see individual supplier pages for full terms of use.

Terms of use: You are permitted to access, download, copy, or print out content from eBooks for your own research or study only, subject to the terms of use set by our suppliers and any restrictions imposed by individual publishers. Please see individual supplier pages for full terms of use.

More support on human resources

Read our articles, eBooks, reports and guides on HR and employment law

Human resources hubeBooks on human resources
Can't find what you're looking for?

The ICAEW Library can give you the right information from trustworthy, professional sources that aren't freely available online. Contact us for expert help with your enquiries and research.

Changelog Anchor
  • Update History
    13 Dec 2021 (12: 00 AM GMT)
    First published
    29 Mar 2023 (12: 00 AM BST)
    Page updated with Related resources section, adding further reading on coping with redundancy and re-evaluating your career. These additional articles and eBook chapter provide fresh insights, case studies and perspectives on this topic. Please note that the original article from 2021 has not undergone any review or updates.