The ‘R’ word still sends a shiver down my spine even though it was six years ago, and it was my husband (H) not even me, who was made redundant. Psychologists say that redundancy causes a range of symptoms, including depression, isolation and low self esteem that often take much longer to recover from than other life changing events.
My son was three years old and I was working part time, so H’s income kept us afloat. In 2010 the recession made itself felt across the country and his employer laid people off in droves. H was last in, first out. He was given three months’ notice of his impending doom, but no payout to cushion the blow.
I may have imagined the ‘why doesn’t he just get another job?’ whispers, but I don’t think I did.
H, surprisingly, took it in his stride. He didn’t give in to feelings of despondency. He knew the state his industry was in and refused to take it personally. He had every confidence he would find work quickly. His positivity kept gloomy images of soup kitchens at bay. He’d done sensible things like training courses and arranging redundancy insurance (when you pause pension payments to afford the premiums).
As the weeks passed, previously undiscovered fault lines in our relationship were tested.
When the axe finally fell, it still knocked us sideways. Despite initial sympathy from those around us, we both felt the shift in vibe. Apart from H’s colleagues, we knew few people who had been affected by unemployment. I may have imagined the ‘why doesn’t he just get another job?’ whispers, but I’m pretty sure they were real. We qualified for benefits which meant we could pay rent and keep going, albeit with belts well and truly tightened. A friend once quizzed me about which benefits we were entitled to, and whether we were claiming any that we weren’t entitled to. Perhaps people assumed we were blowing it all on booze and fags? They questioned why we were dipping into savings rather than keeping them for a rainy day. To us, this was our rainy day.
Sometimes I think people assumed we were blowing it all on booze and fags.
H was at home, all day, every day. It was a novelty, at first, having his help around the house and lifts to work, leaving a choking trail of exhaust smoke across the county from our ancient Renault Megane. But, as the weeks passed, previously undiscovered fault lines in our relationship were tested by ruffled routines, insomnia and bickering about our dwindling funds. I can safely say this wasn’t a high point of our otherwise happy marriage. We both suffered sense of humour failure on a spectacular level. On reflection, this may not have been the best time to introduce a demanding short-term lodger into our household.
By autumn, H had been offered not one but two jobs, and found himself in the enviable position of being able to choose. Our fresh start beckoned, relief triumphantly evicting the anxiety that had almost, but not quite, claimed squatters rights.
For helpful advice on rights, legal entitlements and benefits contact Citizens Advice.