'We don't matter' | Staff sent severance payslips BEFORE firm tells them they've been sacked

Staff sent severance payslips BEFORE firm tells them they've been sacked

A firmed marred in controversy has hit headlines once again after sending staff severance cheques before officially telling them that they’d lost their jobs.

As first reported by Tech Crunch, US-based online mortgage lender Better.com took a huge misstep during its most recent round of mass redundancies. Reportedly, the company had intended to tell affected staff that they would be laid off on March 8th, before deciding to delay the decision by one day, to March 9th.

However, severance pay was still sent out on the original date, leaving many employees to discover via their payroll app that they were soon to be unemployed, before any official communication for their bosses.

According to Tech Crunch, an estimated 3,000 of Better.com’s 8,000-strong workforce, across the USA and India, are being culled. The publication spoke to an anonymous employee who said: “Better Layoffs have started. Severance showing in our Workday app (which is payroll) as of 12 AM respective time zones. No email, no call, nothing. This was handled disgustingly."

The employee added: “Leadership remained absolutely silent, never acknowledged anything in regards to layoffs. They still haven’t.”

Another now-ex-employee Kiana Brown shared further details in a LinkedIn post, explaining how the situation had made her feel as though she "didn't matter".

She wrote: "Today I found out Via my banking app that I was laid off from Better I would say that I am shocked but I am more heartbroken than anything else. I moved as a single mother to a new city for this opportunity all on my own. Spent countless hours preparing and studying mortgage knowledge to advance my skills to be treated as if I didn’t matter. I understand layoffs happen. What I don’t understand is how the company communicated the news."

In a statement provided to the New York Post, the company acknowledged that a “small number of employees were unintentionally notified of their separation from the company ahead of schedule when severance payment information was made available” before bosses told them officially.

The firm added: “This was certainly not the form of notification that we intended and stemmed from an effort to ensure that impacted employees received severance payments as quickly as possible,” the company said in a statement.

Better.com’s sacking controversies continue

Sadly, it is not the first time that Better.com has hit headlines for the wrong reasons in recent months.

In December 2021, the firm’s CEO came under huge scrutiny after sacking around 900 members of staff at once during a Zoom call, just weeks before Christmas.

As widely reported at the time, chief exec Vishal Garg told shocked staff that they were “part of the unlucky group” having their employment terminated immediately, following news that the firm was struggling financially and needed to cut around 15% of its workforce.

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"If you're on this call you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated. Effective immediately,” Garg told the hundreds of workers.

Better.com had recruited high numbers of staff during the pandemic. But Garg has since reportedly told his remaining staff that the firm “overhired and hired the wrong people”.

How can HR handle the redundancy process sensitively?

Better.com’s thousands of jobs were cut from its workforces across the US and India. However, this redundancy situation still provides opportunities for guidance for the UK’s people functions.

Official guidance from the CIPD states that ‘redundancy should be a last resort’.

“It can be one of the most distressing events an employee can experience. It requires sensitive handling by the employer to ensure fair treatment of redundant employees as well as the productivity and morale of the remaining workforce. Redundancy legislation and case law is complex, and employers must understand their obligations, including employees' rights and the correct procedures to follow,” the body’s official advice explained.

Chris Phillips, Employment Law Specialist at Thornton, noted that it’s important that HR is aware of the psychological toll that redundancy can have on all employees. He stated that constant communication is the only way to mitigate negative effects on mental wellbeing.

“We’ve seen the Office for National Statistics confirm that the UK is now officially in recession following a 20% shrink in the economy in the second quarter of this year. These figures are frightening for an employee working remotely...” Phillips previously told HR Grapevine.

He added: “Imagine the anxiety felt and the impact that could have on the mental health of those workers if they are also not properly supported or in regular, meaningful contact with their colleagues and managers.”

Comments (1)

  • Pete
    Thu, 10 Mar 2022 3:27pm GMT
    How to ruin our employer reputation in two easy steps.

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