Guernsey: The Survivor Syndrome

Last Updated: 24 June 2010
Article by Elaine Gray

This article originally appeared in the January 2009 edition of Business Brief.

Picture the scene. There are 20 of you in the funds team. You go to the annual conference and spend the morning in a series of presentations. After lunch, you are split into 2 groups and are told to go to separate rooms for further sessions. The first group is told that times are hard. They are then told that they are to be made redundant and are informed that there are taxis are waiting outside to take them home. 'Thank you very much for your services, now off you go.' No redundancy payment. No bonus. No benefits. The second group is told that the first group is being made redundant but that their jobs are okay, for now.

If you were in either of those groups, how would you feel? If you were in the first group, words like 'outraged' or 'devastated' might leap to mind. Surely the business could have said something? Surely you could have been given some warning? How are you going to cope? You've got a mortgage, responsibilities.

Even if you were one of the 'lucky' ones who were in the second group, would you be feeling lucky? What would be at the back of your mind when you went back to work? Maybe, if things don't improve, next time it will be you out of a job without any warning. If that's how the business goes about dealing with redundancies, why should they treat you any differently?

There's nothing nice about redundancies but the scenario above (which is loosely based on a case which happened in the UK) shows how a badly handled redundancy can devastate lives and wreck workplace morale.

We're living in difficult, some say unprecedented, times. Businesses are struggling to cope with the global financial crisis. In almost every business the wages bill is likely to be one of the biggest expenses. However, any business which decides to cut its wages bill in the manner described above is likely to face several consequences.

The first consequence is in relation to those in the first group. In Guernsey most employees with over a year's service have statutory protection from being unfairly dismissed, although this service requirement is waived in certain circumstances e.g. where the dismissal involves sex discrimination. If an employee is dismissed (whether by reason of redundancy or for any other reason), a claim can be brought against the employer in the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal (the 'Tribunal'). If an employee succeeds in an unfair dismissal claim, the maximum award is 6 months of salary and cash benefits.

In deciding whether a dismissal on the grounds of redundancy was fair or unfair, the Tribunal will ask itself 2 things: first, was this a genuine redundancy; and secondly was a fair redundancy procedure followed?

So, what is a genuine redundancy situation? This can arise where the demand for work of a certain type has reduced or where a whole department or office is closing down. The Tribunal will not look kindly on dismissals which are 'dressed up' as redundancies. (We've been wanting to get rid of So and So for ages because he's not up to scratch, so let's say that we can't keep him any more because the credit crunch has hit sales badly.)

In reality, the second part of the test is the more difficult part to satisfy: a fair redundancy procedure. The best source of information on fair redundancy procedures is the website for Commerce and Employment's Industrial Relations section. This has a Code of Practice on Handling Redundancies (the 'Code'), which is free to download. The Code sets out the steps which an employer should take when facing a redundancy situation. If you are an employer and you have a contractual redundancy policy, you may wish to check that the requirements of the Code are addressed in your Policy.

The common thread which runs through the Code is consultation. If you think back to the scenario above, both groups would have felt very differently had the business simply sat down with the employees at the outset and explained that times were difficult, that the business was going to have to take measures to reduce costs and if real dialogue taken place over alternatives and outcomes.

Let's not stop there. Think how differently the employees in group 1 would have felt if they had known that a fair and objective system had been used to select people for redundancy, such as a scoring system which took into account their performance, skills and experience, absence record etc. Refine the procedure still further by adding in a round of consultations at which the employee had a chance to comment on the scoring system and a chance to suggest alternative to redundancies such as reduced overtime, redeployment in another part of the business, part-time working or voluntary early retirement. Implementing a fair redundancy procedure which incorporates these elements will help take employees past the initial, shock reaction and help lead them to an acceptance of the need for redundancies. Critical in this is giving the employees a voice, instead of presenting the employees with a fait accompli. Apart from anything else, even if no alternatives can be found to redundancies, affected employees have at least had the chance to mentally prepare themselves for the possibility of losing their job.

Implementing a fair procedure is also important from the perspective of the employees who are left behind. Think how differently the employees in group 2 would feel towards the business if it had gone about the redundancy procedure in accordance with the Code.

'Survivor syndrome' is a recognised emotional reaction to redundancies experienced by those who remain in the business after a round of job cuts. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a redundancy exercise only impacts on the employees who lose their jobs. A redundancy exercise has a traumatic impact on everyone associated with it. Frequently, employees who survive a redundancy programme will have experienced a period when their future is uncertain. They will have seen colleagues (who are often friends) lose their jobs. This in itself puts a strain on the survivors. It can become especially difficult for them if the situation between their colleagues and the business becomes contentious, so that the employee feels torn between conflicting loyalties.

Survivors may also feel concerned if they think the business didn't conduct a fair redundancy procedure. If the survivor employees think that the redundant colleagues were not treated with respect, or that the process was somehow unfair or motivated by personal animosity, they will often be demotivated as a result. From the employer's perspective, this could mean the loss of the survivors' skills and experience as the survivors decide to leave rather than risk being next in line for the same treatment. This risk of defection may increase where the survivors are also facing an increased workload or organisational changes in the short-term as a result of the redundancies.

Even if the survivors stay on board, research has shown that survivors often perform much less effectively at work following a redundancy than in the past. Survivor syndrome is connected with various negative changes including lower morale and commitment, reduced loyalty to the business, reduced motivation, increased stress levels and poorer customer focus. In this way the survivors' attitudes towards the business will be driven by their perceptions of their employer's conduct during the redundancy process.

The good news is that survivor syndrome is largely avoidable if employers ensure that redundancies are managed with humanity, fairness and objectivity. In practical terms, this means developing:

  • a communications strategy so that all staff get regular updates on the redundancy procedure;
  • setting out clear criteria which will be applied in selecting staff for redundancy;
  • carrying out sincere (note the emphasis) consultation in which the employer is genuinely committed to listening to the employees' suggestions as to how redundancies might be avoided;
  • making sure that, in the aftermath of a redundancy programme, meetings are held with the survivors to discuss the impact of the redundancies on the business and the employees and consider how those issues can best be addressed;
  • taking practical steps to help survivors cope e.g. with stress resulting from the additional workload or with training to help redeploy the survivors elsewhere within the workplace.

If we were to boil it down into one phrase, it would be that the employer has to treat the employees with respect.

Employers can gauge the success of their treatment of survivor syndrome by measuring statistics such as trends in absence levels, resignation rates, customer feedback, achievement levels in performance reviews etc.

Few organisations can hope to escape the credit crunch unscathed, so if you do have to carry out a redundancy exercise, bear these points in mind. Doing so could mean the difference between costly Tribunal claims and coming through the recession with a stronger workforce, which is loyal and enthusiastic about you as an employer.

And when the tide turns and you're looking to recruit staff, you may well find that your employer branding, as demonstrated in your positive attitude towards employee relations, has the new recruits knocking on your door...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.