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What can HR learn from the demise of Thomas Cook?

thomas cook demise

This week has seen the collapse of one of the longest standing businesses in the UK: Thomas Cook. Established in 1841, the company that was once the face of the UK high street announced it had entered liquidation with immediate effect shortly after 2am on Monday 23rd September, leaving 9,000 people in the UK without a job.

But what can HR professionals learn from the demise of such an historic organisation?

Communication is key

When times of difficulty arise, the worst thing you can do is keep it under your hat and pretend it isn’t happening. Thomas Cook staff were still working on the morning of its collapse; many being told mid-shift that the business was now in the hands of administrators.

While the media covered heroic footage of staff continuing to show up for work to advise customers that had a holiday booked with the company and help stranded passengers in this difficult time; Thomas Cook failed miserably to keep their workers informed of the dire situation at Head Office in the weeks previous to its demise.

While there is a delicate balance between telling your staff what is happening in the board room and panicking them to the point that they jump ship; the Thomas Cook collapse is a fine example of a complete lack of communication between the C-Suite and their employees.

By law, companies have to consult with employees at least 30 days in advance if between 20 and 99 staff are being made redundant, and at least 45 days ahead of redundancies in the case of more than 100 employees. In all cases of more than 20 staff being laid off, a trade union or employee representative must be involved.

Share your redundancy package

Redundancy can be incredibly distressing for your employees. At this sensitive time, your process and approach to redundancy packages shouldn’t come as a shock. Making sure your employees are aware of the redundancy packages available to them (whether statutory or an enhanced package offered by your business) can help to lessen the worry about personal finances in the immediate aftermath of being made redundant.

It is a legal requirement that employees being made redundant that have been in your employ for more than two years are offered statutory redundancy pay. The total amount depends on the salary, length of service and age of the employee being made redundant.

While insolvency, like in Thomas Cook’s case, makes the process of claiming redundancy pay a little more difficult, employees are still entitled to the funds. This may be paid as a result of the sale of company assets or claimed from the National Insurance Fund.

Be compassionate

The vast majority of the estimated 150,000 UK holidaymakers stranded abroad as a result of Thomas Cook’s collapse will have jobs waiting for them at home. Hundreds of businesses across the UK will have staff stuck abroad that still haven’t returned to work after their holiday and employers should take a compassionate approach to these employees; after all, it isn’t their fault.

Whether it is a sick child, broken down car or the collapse of a tour operator; being flexible and accommodating to your employee’s personal needs can make all the difference in their perception of you as their employer.

Showing compassion and care is a vital skill for HR professionals. Whether workers need to work from home, will be in late or need a few extra days tagged onto their time off in accordance with your absence policy; demonstrating a degree of flexibility in these extenuating circumstances will help to minimise the worry these employees are already experiencing in their personal life.