63

The company I work for called me into a meeting out of the blue last Friday, notifying me that they do not have any work they foresee me being able to do in the next 3 months and were terminating me on the grounds of redundancy. I was sent a letter later that day notifying that Friday was the day of notice and that I would keep in touch with them about when my last day should be.

As with such things this was a kick in the guts. I spent Friday and the following weekend touching up my CV, drinking off the hard feelings with friends and applying to new places, as you do.

Come Tuesday, shortly after a meeting with one of my fellow team members to hand over some minor projects I've been working on, I was called by the COO of our company. They notified me that, if I'd like my position back, they were offering it, citing that the head of my department failed to notify the finance team that I was about to start on a new project that'd take up most of my time and that my colleagues didn't have capacity to partake in.

Aside from this being the screw around of the century I sense that this isn't entirely legal in Australia. I've currently not signed anything. All I've been given was a letter of termination notifying me of my situation.

What's the best course of action for me? I'm still early on in my career and while I have confidence in my ability to get another job, being so close to Christmas I'm unsure of my chances.

Update from comments:

Given the result of my conversation with my manager it seems like i don't have massive leverage and management would rather have the rest of the team working at 125% to cover me then to give me a raise. That's at least the jist of what i got from the meeting.

11
  • 60
    You need to decide if you want to go to another job or not. We can't decide that for you. Nov 2, 2022 at 11:09
  • 23
    So how long is this new project and how long does it last before you are redundant again?
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 2, 2022 at 18:02
  • 3
    How many employees does your company have ? Is it a startup ? - Maybe, you can take the job for now till Christmas, and look for a new job while you are working. - It is important to see how strong this current company is so that you can decide whether to have a long term employment with them. Nov 2, 2022 at 19:10
  • 13
    @ilkkachu I think it's more laid off than fired. At least where I am, laid off is when they have no use for you so you get notice and benefits. Fired is when you make a mistake and is immediate (or was it the other way around for benefits?)
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 2, 2022 at 19:45
  • 2
    @ilkkachu - it's not an insignificant distinction. When you terminate someone for redundancy, you literally can't employ anyone else to the same position fora. pretty long period of time.
    – Davor
    Nov 4, 2022 at 10:28

10 Answers 10

146

Now is the moment, if ever there was one, to ask for a pay rise.

You should check with a lawyer (I am not a lawyer, much less your lawyer), but it seems likely that you can force them to uphold the initial redundancy, and use the time you are being paid redundancy to go get another job.

However, it sounds like you are seriously considering staying at your current job. Apart from some hurt feelings, you seem interested in their request to come back. What is more, this whole thing is very embarrassing for your employer, so we can guess that they really do think they need you back. That's good for you, people hate feeling embarrassed, and may bend a long way to save face.

So use that; firstly, swallow your own hurt feelings, they are more likely to make your employer feel awkward. When the mistake your employer just made comes up in conversation you tell them "it's no big deal, these things happen", that is likely to earn you a lot of good will.

Then you say that you would be happy to return, you really enjoyed working for them, and you are sure you can help with this project, but you would need to be paid $X. Don't volunteer a justification. If pressed, you can mention that you have had some time to do some self assessment and look into the job market, and realised that you have useful skills and could earn more than you had previously.

If they agree to $X, or offer some other sum you find palatable, that's great! You know that work there may be in short supply, so consider continuing to quietly look around.

1
  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 3, 2022 at 10:40
40

When the COO personally calls you to say that they shouldn't have fired you and they need you for a big project that nobody else is able to take on right now, it usually means they're motivated to get you back.

So that's a great opportunity, but you'll need to put in some work to take full advantage of it.


The first thing to do is decide if you even want your job back. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Give it some serious thought.

If you do want your job back, now would be an excellent time to negotiate a raise.

So what you need to do is figure out roughly what you're worth to the company. You'll need to put some work in here. Look at job openings, talk to recruiters, do some market research.

Try to figure out how badly they want to keep you. Would it be painful for the company to lose you for this project, or merely an inconvenience?

Put all that together and you should get a sense of where you should be aiming for. Chances are, it'll be significantly more than you're currently being paid.

Then you have to go and negotiate. Decide if you're willing to walk away if you don't get a deal, because that will have a big impact on how you want to word your response. Only you can guess what will work best in your company, but here's my best guess at how I'd do it (and this is assuming you are willing to walk away):

Hi [COO],

Thank you for reaching out.

It's an unfortunate situation. I had hoped to stay with [company]. My work seemed to be valued, I was advancing professionally and taking on bigger and more important projects and I saw a path to continuing on that trajectory.

But if the company is willing to make me redundant at a moment's notice, then that's a very clear signal I was wrong and I should find someone new to work for. Who values my results and is willing to invest in my ongoing professional development.

If you think that can still be [company], then let's have that conversation. If not, then thank you again for reaching out and I will continue handing over my outstanding projects and responsibilities as per my redundancy notice.

The goal is to frame things to your advantage:

  • Get them thinking about how you were a committed and valuable employee that they don't want to lose. About those bigger and more important projects which are about to grind to a halt without you.

  • Make it clear that you are holding them to their redundancy notice. If they want to take it back then it's not gonna be free.

  • Frame the next steps as being about value, compensation, and professional development.

  • Suggest that you might stay if the value/compensation/development picture changes, but they're going to have to work extra hard to convince you given what just happened.

  • Remind them that you are currently leaving. Right now. So if they want to fix that, then they need to act quickly. And a nice reminder at the end that they don't have someone to take over your responsibilities and it would be painful to lose you.

And you do all of that without calling them out or getting confrontational.


Then you see what happens.

Either they'll decide to just eat the loss, wish you good luck and you need to go find a new job.

Or they'll take the hint and try to negotiate. Which is a whole different category of questions which you should make sure you're prepared for because these things can move very quickly when an executive decides to make something happen.

If you want somewhere to start, I highly recommend https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

And just as an aside:
Don't let anyone tell you you're too young and inexperienced to be paid what you're worth for the job you're already doing. My last company told me at 24 that I was getting ahead of myself and comparing my salary to positions that needed [Qualifications] and [Years of experience] which I didn't have. Less than a year later they offered me a 100% raise and equity in the company to stop me leaving.

Figure out what you're actually worth to the company, what value you deliver, what it would cost them to replace you, and negotiate based on that number.

11
  • I'm not sure how the long the notice period was, but under Australian law, it's unlikely to be "a moments notice". Nov 2, 2022 at 11:20
  • 1
    I meant in the sense of, one day you're fine. And the next day you're being made redundant.
    – Kaz
    Nov 2, 2022 at 11:40
  • "Less than a year later they offered me a 100% raise and equity in the company to stop me leaving." So, did you stay?
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 2, 2022 at 20:10
  • To your last point, I would figure out what you are actually worth before sending that email. If you worth is not meaningfully above your current comp, that letter may be too aggressive. If you can be replaced by a new-hire off the street, trying to leverage this situation could backfire
    – cdkMoose
    Nov 2, 2022 at 21:23
  • 1
    @spuck Maybe you missed it, but they were offered their job back. Nov 3, 2022 at 22:23
29

I would take the redundancy and offer to contract for the approximate duration of the new project. You will be amazed how a 3x pay cheque allows you to overcome bad feelings, boredom, career stress etc.

Go with 2.5 or 3x your nominal rate, 6 months at a time (or whatever is appropriate). Don't forget to lock in any holiday time you want.

As your project/contract ends you'll be able to plan your exit on your terms.

If they say no, nothing has changed.

Edit: As this is Australia, @GregoryCurrie makes a good point: You may be obliged to forgo any redundancy money or go through some change of contract for this to work legally. Actual redundancy comes with special conditions.

This reinforces my reply to some of the comments - this is my suggestion. It's what I would look at doing. It's just an option for you to consider. Maybe not the best, maybe not the worst.

12
  • 10
    Did you ever try this and has it ever worked?
    – nvoigt
    Nov 2, 2022 at 9:55
  • 7
    I've certainly returned to a previous employer as a contractor though I have never left due to a premature redundancy. OP asked for advice - this is mine. Nov 2, 2022 at 10:05
  • 4
    @LoztInSpace However there is no guarantee that the contractor move will work. The company might just say "screw it", and wait out the time needed to hire someone new before starting the new project. And with all due respect to the OP, being early in his career makes him much more replaceable. (And as an anecdote, I once new of a guy who was getting himself up to come back as a contractor after he retired - and the company said "nope")
    – Peter M
    Nov 2, 2022 at 12:46
  • 2
    @PeterM Yes of course. It's just a suggestion like all the other "answers". I am not OP, nor the COO or hiring manager. I have no idea how it will play out but this is what I would do. Nov 2, 2022 at 14:09
  • 1
    Asking for a pay raise after being let go for redundancy is idiotic. If they had money, they woulnt be letting people go. Asking for a raise is the quickest way for them to change their mind and show him the door... Again. If the work is that important, they will just hire someone else to replace him with the skills.
    – Keltari
    Nov 3, 2022 at 0:17
24

Australian answer for an Australian question

Aside from this being the screw around of the century I sense that this isn't entirely legal in Australia. I've currently not signed anything; All I've been given was a letter of termination notifying me of my situation.

It's completely legal in Australia for them to give you an offer to renew your contract after you've been issued notice. In fact, they may be required under Australian law to give you the opportunity to continue your employment if something matching your old role becomes available before you finish your employment.

Legally, all they have to do is put the exact same conditions on the table. If you don't agree with the status quo, they can revoke the offer and look elsewhere.

With respect to if they can unilaterally withdraw notice. Hon. Gray J in Birrell v Australian National Airlines Commission [1984] FCA 378 observes:

The purpose of providing in a contract for a period of notice of termination is to enable the party receiving the notice to make other arrangements. An employee given notice by his or her employer has a period of time in which to seek another job; an employer who receives notice has time to arrange for a substitute employee. It would be harsh if arrangements so made during the running of the notice could be disrupted, and parties could be held to their contracts by unilateral withdrawal of the notice at the last minute. Such withdrawal, if possible, could lead to an employee being bound by contracts of employment with two employers, or an employer being bound by contracts of employment with two employees, each being required to give notice to one or the other in order to be extricated from this position, or possibly to suffer the requirement to forfeit or pay wages for a period of time. In my view, I should lean against the adoption of any principle which could lead to such unfortunate consequences, and I should follow the authorities which tend to establish that withdrawal of a notice of termination of a contract of employment can only be effected by consent of both parties.

I'm not going to say you should ask for more money, or a longer notice period. I'm not going to say you shouldn't either.

Companies make mistakes, and miscommunication happens, but you need to take the emotion of getting screwed-around, and think objectively.

Now, there is one very important thing you should also be aware of.

Under the Fair Work Act, employers are able to apply to have the amount of redundancy pay altered if they find suitable alternative employment for the employer who was made redundant.

120 Variation of redundancy pay for other employment or incapacity to pay

(1) This section applies if:

    (a) an employee is entitled to be paid an amount of redundancy pay by the employer because of section 119; and

    (b) the employer:

        (i) obtains other acceptable employment for the employee; or

        (ii) cannot pay the amount.

(2) On application by the employer, the FWC may determine that the amount of redundancy pay is reduced to a specified amount (which may be nil) that the FWC considers appropriate.

(3) The amount of redundancy pay to which the employee is entitled under section 119 is the reduced amount specified in the determination.

So please note that your employer can still terminate your employment, but be not legally required to pay the complete redundancy package. In addition, there are other conditions that may lead them to not pay any redundancy.

15

Interesting predicament.

My first reaction would be to act as if you hadn't received the offer from the COO and send your CVs out, let them know that this isn't how you expect to be treated and that it's best that everyone goes their separate ways.

However, that is my first reaction.

I don't know how large the company you are working for is, but it sounds like there's enough layers of Management to infer that it isn't a small company - in which case, it might be that the COO found out what had happened, was annoyed that someone made a stupid decision and has sought out to right a wrong, coming up with some assignment for you.

In which case, having someone higher up batting for you and invested in you is a precious thing and not to be squandered.

I would reply to the COO and ask for an informal, off-the-record chat. I would let them know you feel extremely messed around and that now you've smartened up your CV and sent it round, you are getting nibbles and interest.

If the COO is generally open and on your side and you get a number of action points to make sure this doesn't happen again, then it might be worth staying with the company. Having someone on the C-Suite who is in your corner can be hugely beneficial to your career.

Otherwise, if they aren't willing to discuss or go further or at the very least address how crappy it is to make someone redundant only to turn around and say 'oopsy' - then I would simply walk.

7

Talk to an employment lawyer. Don't worry about the cost, you will get much more back if you play your cards right.

I believe that if you give notice, or if the company gives notice, that cannot be retracted unless the other side agrees. So one of your choices is to find a job elsewhere. Or you can offer to work for some time as a contractor, at much higher payment obviously.

Or you stay, as long as some conditions are met. Asking for a good raise is obvious. And another thing that I would ask for is that our contract is changed, so the company needs to give at least three months notice, while you stay with your two weeks. In light of the situation you ended up in, that's a very reasonable requirement.

2

If you have free/cheap access to legal council, use it. Note that if there is some way for you to get legal compensation for the mistake and if you want to pursue it, this will be some stress as well, which may not be worth the amount of money you'd get.

If you just want your job back, and don't want to risk anything, take the job back, and forget about the whole incident. Keep looking for other opportunities knowing you are very expendable in this company.

However, if you can take a bit of a risk, then just be honest: "I was really stressed about this over the weekend, as you can imagine, and I of course already started to look for a new position. I also think that if the company is asking me to come back, it means I am of value to the company. This would be a good time give me an extra raise to smooth this whole thing over. I believe I am worth it."

2

Did they offer you any severance?

If they're unlikely to give a raise, but you quite rightly feel put-upon by their screwup, and you still want your job, perhaps a one-time "incentive" is appropriate?

Tell them you can accept their offer to continue employment, but you expect severance after having been given notice. If they did not offer severance, you can ask for a "retention bonus" now. It matters very little what its called, but they should write you a check for your troubles and to smooth over bad feelings.

I'd suggest 2 months salary is about right, since either replacing you, or increasing the workload for the rest of the team would likely cost considerably more.

However, despite their regrets about letting you go, they have indicated that they can and would terminate you ahead of certain co-workers in the future. Even if you continue employment with this company, consider starting a job search for a better position now.

2

Continue your ongoing job hunt, and when you've found a new job, leave. They've burned their bridge to the ground, it's ashes in the river now.

One thing that is often said on this forum is to never ask for a counteroffer to stay when you have already told your employer that you want to quit, and to never accept such a counteroffer. The reason is because, once you have told your employer you are leaving, they see you as a flight risk; any work you are assigned with may not get finished, because you might follow through on that threat to leave, if not now then later. So you should never tell your employer you want to quit until it's time to actually do the quitting.

This cuts both ways, I'm afraid. Your employer has told you they want to fire you, and in fact has fired you. Then they do a 180 and say they want you back to work on a project. But you've already been fired. What's to say that next time a firing round comes around, you won't be first on the chopping block, as you already have been? You should be very afraid for your position at this company for as long as you continue to work there, because they've already told you that you're not important by firing you once. You should find a position at a company where you are valued more and aren't at immediate risk of being fired.

Here's what you do:

  1. In the immediate term, do not interrupt your ongoing job search. Continue job searching as you were before you got this news. You are on the thinnest of ice at your current company and you should act as such. Get out ASAP.

  2. Having an income is better than having no income. Your company is prepared to pay you to work on whatever the current project is for however long you want to work on it (until they decide to fire you). Take their money. Work on their project, until such time as you find a new job. Then leave.

  3. Don't feel responsible for anything at this company going forward. A lot of people have the feeling that they need to "finish their work" or whatever, before they find a new job. Don't. You're already fired, you're working on borrowed time, so to speak. They just haven't actually fired you yet, but you're already next on the chopping block. So act like it. You're not trying to prove anything to them, or to get in their good graces, or anything like that. You're there to do a job, until such time as you are no longer there to do that job. When you get the offer letter from your next company, sign it, do your legal obligations at your current company vis a vis notice period, and then leave, even if the project is not finished or anything else. If they wanted you to be loyal to them and finish their project, they shouldn't have fired you in the first place.


EDIT: I missed the part where someone in C-suite got involved. People in C-suite don't get involved over things that don't matter. If the COO is involved in this, chances are pretty good someone has made a bona fide error. That said, it doesn't change where you stand. You're still on the chopping block. I'd like to amend my above answer in the following way:

Talk to the COO, off the record, and explain to them what happened and how you feel. You feel undervalued and you are concerned for your job security. After all, you were already fired once, why wouldn't they just fire you again immediately if some other issue were to come up? You need some sort of compensation for this, or assurance that it won't happen again. Things that might make you inclined to forgive them for the error include:

  • A substantial pay raise
  • A substantial lump sum payment for your stress
  • A renegotiation of the contract to extend their firing notice period (so they have to pay additional wages if they want to terminate you in the future); obviously your quitting notice period should remain unchanged
  • A change of team or responsibilities to get away from the manager who made the decision to terminate you

Of course, all of this is just a bluff to see if they call or not. You should still follow the above advice vis a vis finding a new job and getting out ASAP. But there's no harm in putting the screws back to them, given that they've put the screws to you. Maybe you can make a few bucks for your troubles to offset your bar bill from Friday.

0

My gut feeling is, they don't want to pay you a redundancy knowing you will soon find another job. So they may pretend to want you back and then fire you for slight mistake or made up stuff just to ensure you leave with nothing. Tell them to honour the redundancy and talk of a new contract for the new project after redundancy has been finalised. No one want is certain about what's up there sleeve. Such a serious decision could not be made without everyone senior aware of the implications. Let them pay your redundancy and talk of the new project later

5
  • 1
    Under Australian law, if they offer you an alternative position, they no longer have to pay redundancy payments. Nov 6, 2022 at 6:52
  • @GregoryCurrie, but that should happen before giving notice. Once you give notice, I don't think you can just change your mind unless the other party agrees. I once managed to be told that many jobs including mine were gone in the morning, arranged an interview late afternoon, had the interview and verbal offer next morning.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 6, 2022 at 11:03
  • @gnasher729 You are right that they can't change their mind about giving notice, but they can apply to have the redundancy pay waived if they make a job offer to the employee. fairwork.gov.au/tools-and-resources/fact-sheets/… Nov 6, 2022 at 14:00
  • @gnasher729 Section 120 of the Fair Work Act. "Variation of redundancy pay for other employment or incapacity to pay". So yes, you can be made redundant, and then not get redundancy pay if they offer you another job, but you are not required to accept the cancellation of the notice period. Nov 6, 2022 at 14:09
  • @gnasher729 (And no, I don't like it either) Nov 6, 2022 at 14:11

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .