survivor's guilt

Redundancy and Survivor’s Guilt

Thinking of Those Left Behind


Employment lawyer Charlotte Turnbull looks at why employers need to manage the redundancy process well for the sake of those left behind as well, as those that are leaving. 

The decision to make redundancies will have an impact not only on your business but also on the lives (and livelihoods) of your employees.  In my experience, the businesses which not only survive but also thrive through difficult times are those which properly plan a redundancy programme. They treat all employees with dignity and respect.  


Employers are generally aware that when making employees redundant that they need to ensure that they follow the correct procedures and apply them fairly.  However, a lot of employers overlook the impact on remaining staff.  Many businesses assume the surviving workforce will work harder, as they are thankful that they weren’t let go.  But the redundancy survivors may be experiencing feelings of uncertainty and guilt, or they may be worried about an increase in their workload.

 In fact, businesses might well be sitting on a new crisis, i.e., the one of ‘Workplace Survivor Syndrome’, or ‘Survivor’s Guilt’. ‘Survivor syndrome’ is an emotional reaction to redundancies experienced by those who remain with the organisation. 

Businesses should pay attention and take this seriously as it can have a substantial effect on the performance of its employees.  

Survivor’s Guilt


Survivor’s guilt can cause:


  •       low morale and commitment;
  •       reduced loyalty to the business;
  •       decreased motivation;
  •       diminished performance and productivity;
  •       poor client or customer focus;
  •       an increase in stress levels;
  •       a likelihood to work (excessively) longer hours;
  •       greater risk-avoidance and slower decision-making;
  •       an unwillingness to learn new skills; 
  •       increased absence and or increased presenteeism; and 
  •       increase in staff turnover, meaning the business loses skills it hoped to keep.  

 There are many things employers can do to support redundancy survivors, including: 

  •       effective communication, both pre and post redundancy;
  •       support from line managers in adjusting to new role;
  •       counselling or access to an Employee Assistance Programme;


Employers should be aware that if the process is not managed properly, they may be on the receiving end of a claim for work related stress.  All employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees. They have a duty to see that reasonable care is taken to provide them with a safe place of work, safe tools and equipment, and a safe system of working. 

One thing you can do for any staff you are making redundant is to add them to the hub here.

Charlotte Turnbull If you would like a confidential discussion about any legal aspect of redundancy, please  contact Charlotte.