How to help retrenched staff

April 25, 201610:22 am1573 views

RETRENCHMENT is unavoidable when sustainability becomes too difficult a challenge – like in the oil and gas and manufacturing sectors, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says.

Whether or not you are currently employed, it’s crucial to constantly upskill and stay relevant, says Robert Walters’ Sally Raj.

“Your visibility in the industry is important because you want potential employers to remember you when the economy picks up.

“When rejoining the workforce in the same industry, at the same level and with the right skill sets, asking for your last drawn salary is fine. But, if you’re entering a new industry, you must manage your expectations and understand that a pay cut will be very likely,” she says.

Those looking to be rehired must remain a “competitive candidate”, Randstad Malaysia country director Ryan Carroll insists. With the growing influence of technology in the workplace, training in relevant tech for their respective industries is hugely important.

“This is something Malaysians understand. Our Workmonitor report for the first quarter of this year showed that 89% of Malaysian employees feel they need additional training to help them stay up to date with technology,” he says.

Retrenched staff, Manpower Malaysia country manager Sam Haggag says, need support.

“They must learn to be more self-aware, to manage expectations, and to do better financial planning – especially when managing the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) for those who opt out, before they’re ready to go out and look for work. Otherwise, it’s difficult unless you’re lucky enough to find a job that’s a perfect fit.

“If you’ve been in a job for 15 years, you define yourself by your role. Many don’t realise that they can do so much more,” he says.

This, he observes, is very hard for newly retrenched staff to appreciate. But many have gone on to set up their own businesses and take on different roles in different environments. They’re saying it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Retrenched workers must be more flexible, practical and pragmatic, before they can move on to something better.

“Most have become used to the environment and culture. They’ve worked their way up the salary scale and are earning above market value. So, there are adjustments to be made. And, you must know how to manage your VSS compensation. I’ve seen some who had really good packages but it still wasn’t enough to tide them over while they were looking for a new job,” he says.

It’s good practice for companies retrenching staff to assist employees in job counselling and placement, advice and provide information of job openings within the industry, and give testimonials in support of the job applicant, Shamsuddin says, adding that securing another job would depend on a person’s employability, and the skills and experience amassed over the years.

Learning new skills enhances employability. Part-time work is another alternative for retrenched workers, he says.

“But to encourage employers to offer such work, the current regulations must be updated and amended as our part-time work regulations are too rigid,” he says.

The MEF, he says, has been pushing the Government to review its labour laws and allow for better flexibility to maintain employment and minimise retrenchment during challenging economic situations.

“We’re proposing the time bank concept – a reciprocity-based work trading system with hours as the currency. With time bank, an employee who works overtime won’t be paid immediately but the earnings will be credited to his time bank account so the company doesn’t have to retrench him or her during difficult times.

“The employee will be paid through his time bank account when he’s not required to come in. The employee will be called back to work when the economy improves without losing seniority and position,” he suggests, lamenting how the time bank concept cannot be implemented yet because the Employment Act 1955 currently states that overtime must be paid in cash.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Richard Riot wants retrenched staff to register with the JobsMalaysia portal.

“We’ve also taken proactive measures by introducing the retrenchment management guideline. It’s a mechanism aimed at increasing employer understanding on retrenchment management and exposing retrenched employees to their rights under the law,” he says, stressing that retrenchment should be the last resort.

To assist retrenched staff, the ministry provides re-training programmes that are in line with current market needs and training allowances. It also ensures workers receive due notice and retrenchment benefits like salary and annual leave balance, in accordance to the law or collective agreement.

The Human Resources Development Fund has kicked off a series of programmes to retrain retrenched workers, its chief executive Datuk C.M. Vignaesvaran toldThe Star on April 11.

The programmes include the “Train and Replace” and 1Malaysia Outplacement Centre programmes targeted to run next month.

Those recently made jobless can also consider becoming Uber drivers or start a food truck business, Shamsuddin offers.

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