Retrenched? These Are The Next Steps To Take Immediately

Believe it or not, this could be an opportunity...

Kirsten Curtis |

If you’re one of the more than 3 million South Africans who’ve lost their jobs in 2020, you may be feeling like a passenger in your own life right now. Here’s what you need to do to take back control after you’ve been retrenched.

Feel the feelings.

Caution: Touch-feely shit ahead. But stick with us; this is important. Back in 1976, a couple of researchers called Jean Hartley and Cary Cooper published a paper examining research into the psychological effects of retrenchment. They found that there wasn’t nearly enough focus on the trauma of the retrenchment process itself. Because getting retrenched is helluva traumatic. Their paper inspired more research into the subject. These days it’s well documented that being retrenched can leave you feeling aimless, angry, ashamed, worthless or like you’ve lost part of your identity.

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If that sounds familiar, now is not the time to be stoic. Pretending everything’s fine doesn’t make it fine and depression and anxiety are genuine risks when you’ve just lost your job. Acknowledge the feelings – they don’t make you weak, they make you human.

GET HELP If you don’t feel like you can speak to your family or friends, Lifeline offers 24/7 telephone counselling. Call them on: 0861 322 322 or check out the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) for a list of emergency helplines, including one that you can contact via Whatsapp.

Stop. Breathe. Think. Plan.

After being retrenched, there’s a good chance you feel pressure to find another job immediately. But, as in any crisis, the last thing you want to do is panic. StopĀ  mindlessly reacting. Take a few deep breaths. Think about what your next steps should be. What qualifications and experience do you have? What can you do with that aside from what you were doing before? Have you perhaps been thinking of pivoting or starting your own business? If so, is now a viable time to do that with the resources at your disposal?

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What contacts, friends or mentors do you have who might be able to help you or give you advice? Write these things down, then formulate a strategic plan of how proceed. Start by updating your LinkedIn profile and CV. If you’re registered on any job search websites, such as PNet, make sure your profile is active and up to date. If you’ve ever had a recruiter place you or send you for an interview, let them know you’re back in the market.

Take stock of your finances.

“In the last few weeks, I’ve chatted with a number of talented professionals who suddenly lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19’s effect on the economy. What I have noticed is that getting retrenched has served as a catalyst for people to take control of their finances,” says financial advisor Bryan Nicol of NLD Independent Financial Advisors. He recommends creating a spreadsheet of your personal money story. “It can be very empowering knowing exactly where your money is going,” says Bryan.

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To do it, follow these steps:

STEP 1: In column A, include all money that comes into your bank account in a normal month. This would include your salary, any freelance income, rental income if you have tenants, etc.

STEP 2: Open your bank statement. Now, in column B, jot down all the money that goes out of your account in a regular month: debit orders, grocery shopping, school fees, spontaneous treats, etc. You may want to aggregate this over two or three months for a more accurate picture.

STEP 3: Highlight the absolute non-negotiable amounts that leave your bank account (bond /rent, school fees, car repayments, medical aid, etc). Add them up. This is what you need to survive month-to-month. For the rest, see where you can cut back (do you really need expensive single-origin coffee beans?) or cut out (that golf club membership is awesome, but will you die if you give it a break?). It’s also possible to press pause on some of your insurance premiums. But read this first before you do.

Get what’s owed to you.

If you were formally employed, you would probably have seen UIF deductions go off your salary every month. That’s your contribution to the government’s Unemployment Insurance Fund. Now that you’ve been retrenched, it’s time to cash in. Ask your HR department for the documentation you need to register for UIF. If you were a permanent employee, you are also eligible for a severance package. This should be at least one week’s salary for every completed year of service. Any annual leave you didn’t take in the current leave cycle should also be paid out to you. You’ll find more detail on the Commission For Conciliation Mediation And Arbitration (CMMA)’s website. They’re also the people to contact if your employer is not abiding by the law.

Remember, it’s only a setback!

Getting retrenched may feel like the end, but it’s not. By taking control of your life, you’ll start to see that there are still many opportunities ahead for you and this setback may turn out to be the beginning of an even better future.

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