How to prepare for redundancy

Almost one in three Britons are worried about being made redundant in the next 12 months, but if you think your job is under threat, there are ways to prepare for the worst.

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According to research by HSBC, 29% of workers feel their jobs are not secure, rising to 37% of public sector workers over the age of 55.

Looking further ahead, unemployment fears worsen, with 37% of people concerned about their job security over the next three years.

Older workers are once more carrying the biggest worry burden, with almost half of public sector workers over the age of 55, and more than a third of their private sector peers, feeling their jobs are insecure over that timeframe.

Richard Brown at HSBC said: "Many people are feeling insecure about their job prospects. While this feeling of a lack of job security is particularly acute among older people in the public sector, everyone seems to be feeling the squeeze.”

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

If you are counting on a redundancy payout to keep you going until your next job, then remember that you need to have completed at least two years' service to qualify for a statutory payment.

What’s more, your employer has no obligation to make a higher payment no matter how long you have worked for a company – unless it is in your employment contract.

The best way to avoid falling into debt when you lose your job is therefore to have savings to hand – especially as it can take some time for benefit claims to be processed.

Based on the median weekly gross salary of £499, the average person would need £1,667.25 in savings for every month spent in unemployment to maintain their standard of living.

Brown said: "In times of uncertainty, it is all the more important that people have contingency plans to deal with any unexpected future occurrences."

Best ways to build savings

If you are keen to build up a savings cushion to protect you and your family from the financial hardship that can come hand in hand with redundancy, your first port of call should be a tax-free cash ISA.

You can invest up to £5,340 in a cash ISA this tax year and the best easy-access version on the market at the moment is Nationwide Building Society’s e-ISA at 3.10% (including a 1.35% bonus fixed until the end of August 2012).

You will need a Nationwide card account to qualify, but you can open the account with as little as £1, making it a good choice for anyone looking to build up a nest egg.

If, however, you have already used your ISA allowance, you will need to choose a standard savings account instead. Many of the highest interest rates are available on fixed rate accounts, but accounts of this kind are not suitable for rainy day saving as you cannot normally access your money during the fixed term.

With this in mind, the best instant-access account on the market at the moment is Nationwide’s MySave Online Plus, paying 3.05%.

You must pay in at least £1,000 to qualify, but this account is suitable for steady saving as it allows unlimited deposits up to a maximum balance of £3,000,000.

The fact that you can only make one penalty-free withdrawal each year should also help less disciplined savers to avoid dipping into the account, while offering immediate access when you need it.

The headline rate does include a 12-month, 1.51% bonus, however, meaning that you will probably need to switch accounts after one year.

If that sounds too much hassle, you want more flexibility or you simply don’t have £1,000, you could opt for the ING Direct Savings Account instead. It pays 3.00%, offers unlimited withdrawals and can be opened with just £1.

The rate is also bonus-free, although it is only guaranteed to remain at that level for the first 12 months you hold the account – so you will still need to keep an eye on it after that point.

Is there anything else I can do?

If you are very concerned about being made redundant, but crucially have not yet been informed of job cuts by your employer, it could be worth taking out unemployment insurance designed to cover your mortgage/rent and other financial commitments in these circumstances.

But policies of this kind could prevent losing your job spiralling into the nightmare of losing your home too.

As many policies require you to be out of work for a certain period before you can make a claim, you should not treat cover of this kind as an excuse not to save, though.

It is also vital to check the terms and conditions carefully before you buy to ensure that any claim you make would not be rejected due to exclusions detailed in the small print.

Finally, consider what protection you already have in place. If you already have mortgage, loan or credit card payment protection insurance, for example, you may have all the cover you need.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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