Many of us have experienced a particular chill when the boss says: "We've got to let you go/make you redundant." Like a death, even if expected, it is always a shock. Unfortunately there are likely to be many more of these unpleasant shocks.
The steelmaker Corus kicked it off last year, technology companies continue to let people go, airline staffs have dwindled since 11 September, and advertising, marketing and the media have suffered job cutbacks. Even the City has cut bonuses.
This week a further 5,800 people had to face up to hunting for work after they were made redundant by British Airways, which had already shed 7,200 staff after the 11 September terrorist attacks slashed bookings on transatlantic flights. That means BA has cut its workforce by a quarter.
For those who are walking away from their former employer with a redundancy cheque, an uncertain future beckons, in which they must adjust to the rules of a different game.
Philippa Gee, of the financial adviser Torquil Clark, which specialises in redundancy, says: "Don't do anything for at least three weeks. You will need time to absorb, adjust, plan. Many people pay off their mortgage with the redundo money immediately. This is not necessarily a good idea. It might be hard to set up another mortgage later if you are still unemployed and need the money."
Ms Gee says redundancy is just another word and another reason for dismissal, and you can still claim unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal if your job contract was breached. You could receive compensation as well as a redundancy payment.
An advertising executive, who wants to remain anonymous so as not to upset an employer who has given him a generous redundancy settlement, says: "My wife and I plus our two kids had just been moved to London, after five years in the US. I found out what was happening because I was e-mailing someone in the firm about paying the moving expenses and he e-mailed back, `Maybe we could just add it to your redundancy package'. I was called in to see the boss two hours later.
"What do they say? Shock, anger, acceptance? It is a bit true, it was a big surprise, given the relocation. But they were very nice about it and I've been given plenty of time before leaving. I think it will be positive for me: there are plenty of opportunities out there."
This executive was not given prior consultation. By law, an employer cannot issue redundancy notices before there has been an opportunity for proper consultation. …