Supporting employees through workplace change

Support and advice for employees and employers going through workplace change.

Workplace change can be a stressful time for employees and managers. We recommend employers provide support to help everyone through the process. Employees can help themselves by keeping up to date about what’s happening and accepting support.

Information for employees

Keep up to date with what’s happening

Your employer should give you a chance to be involved and provide your feedback through the workplace change process. They should tell you what’s happening, why it’s happening, and when.

Make sure you go to the meetings and read the information you are given about the changes.

Check what your employment agreement says about restructuring and redundancy. If you do not have a copy of your employment agreement, ask your employer for one.

If you’re not sure about something, you can talk with others including:

  • workmates
  • your representative
  • your union
  • a support person
  • an HR person 
  • your manager.

Provide feedback

Your employer should tell you how you can give feedback on the changes they’re proposing. You can normally do this in person or in writing. You might choose to provide feedback directly to your manager, by yourself or with a group of workmates, or through your representative.

It’s a good idea to let your employer know what you think about the proposed changes, any suggestions you have, and the impact of the changes on you. If you can think of different or better ways to do things, tell your employer. Try to be positive and constructive when telling them your thoughts and ideas. 

Selection process and redundancy

Sometimes workplace change means existing roles in your organisation are removed or new ones are created (or both). If this happens, your employer might use a selection process to place employees into new or different roles.

Make sure you understand the selection and appointment process and what this might mean for you. You should be given the opportunity to comment on the process and apply for roles that are the same as, or similar to, your current role. The selection process must be fair.

Your employer might offer you a suitable alternative role in your organisation if your current role is being made redundant. If you turn the role down, it could mean you lose your job and you might not get redundancy pay. Check what your employment agreement says.

If you think that you cannot do the role you’ve been offered (even with training), or the terms and conditions are worse than your current role, you should check what your employment agreement says and talk to someone about this. Options include your manager, your representative, someone you trust or other employees.

Accept support

A change process can sometimes be a worrying time. This is normal. Make sure you look after yourself, for example, eat well and get plenty of sleep. If an Employee Assistance Programme or other support is offered and can help, use it.

Take advantage of any training offered on CV-writing or interview skills.

If you’re unhappy

If you are unhappy with the process or believe you have been treated in an unfair way, you should talk to someone, for example, your manager, representative, HR person, or support person — or seek mediation to help you to resolve the issues.

If the change process causes a dispute or problem at work, you can find information below on what steps to take. 

If you believe you have been made redundant for reasons that were not genuine, or the workplace change process was unfair, you can challenge it by raising a personal grievance. 


Resolving Problems

Information for employers

Below are suggestions for things employers can do to support their employees, and show they are acting in good faith and following a fair process.

  • Touch base regularly with employees, be available throughout the process and keep communicating. For example, hold small group discussions if required, walk the floors and be seen.
  • Give employees time off to prepare feedback, prepare for interviews, or deal with other issues that may arise through the change process.
  • Acknowledge feelings and encourage employees to seek support. Explain what to expect, and suggest things they can do to adjust to, and be involved in, the change process.
  • Offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or other counselling support. If you have an EAP provider, or decide to have a provider for this change, take time to brief them on what is happening. Make sure they can offer the appropriate level of support to employees and managers throughout the process.
  • Offer training in CV-writing or interview skills if employees need to apply for new roles.
  • Offer career advice or outplacement support to help employees who are made redundant because of the changes. Career advice can also be helpful for employees seeking different roles in the new structure. 

Employee Assistance Programmes

Many employers offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to their employees. EAP provides free, confidential counselling and support for employees for all aspects of their lives, not just work. 

Employers often offer EAP during workplace change — even if they do not have a continuing EAP programme — as this can be a particularly stressful time for employees. Employers also often offer EAP to their employees as part of:

  • their wider health and safety programme
  • a managing diversity initiative
  • managing poor performance or misconduct. 

There are different ways an organisation can provide EAP to employees. Some examples are listed below.

  • They contract with a single EAP provider and pay a set fee based on the number of employees in the organisation. The employer doesn’t know who is using the service, so employees’ use of the service is completely confidential.
  • They contract a single EAP provider and pay per session. If an employee accesses the service through a designated contact person in the organisation, their name is protected.
  • They contract with specific EAP providers as and when needed. This means that specialist providers can be used which target the employee and their specific situation. Going through a designated contact person protects the employee’s name. However, more general support may be needed if employees don’t want to disclose details about their situation.

In some cases, employees can refer themselves directly to EAP. In others, they will need to go through a contact person in their organisation. Some organisations limit the number of sessions per issue, or sessions per person. 

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