'It can happen to anyone': Aucklander made redundant twice in 6 months says COVID-19 is forcing businesses to change

After being made redundant twice in six months, Auckland-based marketer Ben Stonyer says it can happen to anyone.
After being made redundant twice in six months, Auckland-based marketer Ben Stonyer says it can happen to anyone. Photo credit: Getty.

After being made redundant twice in six months, an Auckland man says with COVID-19 forcing many businesses to make changes, it can happen to anyone.

Being made redundant can give rise to a range of emotions: surprise, concern - and worry. But if viewed positively, it can also build resilience.

An experienced marketer, Ben Stonyer worked for his employer, an out-of-home media company, for 10 years before being made redundant in July 2020 as a result of a company restructure due to COVID-19.

"[I] was told the restructure was needed for the business to survive," Stonyer explains.

Finishing up in August, he applied for "around 77 jobs" before moving to a digital marketing agency, only to be made redundant again in February.

"The second one was not directly COVID-19 related, it was more [that] cash flow in the business was low and income coming in was not enough to sustain my employment," Stonyer adds.

Having accrued annual leave from the first employer, this was paid out in August. Despite there being no redundancy payout, the money helped to make ends meet. He tried to apply for the COVID-19 income relief payment, but says due to having children, he was required to complete extra forms which took longer, leaving him feeling "frustrated".

"Luckily, I ended up getting a role before I needed that, but I found the whole experience really frustrating compared to a colleague that had it all sorted in a day," Stonyer says.

Having now burned through a lot of his savings and contemplating having to apply for the unemployment benefit, he's pinning his hopes on finding a job soon. On a positive note, competition in the job market felt a lot more fierce the first time around.

"For roles I'm looking at, this time doesn't feel the same," Stonyer adds.

Some people may call his experience unlucky, but Stonyer says it's just the reality of a COVID-19 world. For other Kiwis who happen to find themselves in the same boat, he suggests they start by updating their CV and staying in touch with their network.

"It could definitely happen to anyone…I was blown away by the support I got from my professional network - no one wants to see people they have worked with or done work with out of a job and they will help."

Bob Walker, a career coach and recruiter, says aside from hospitality and travel, many companies in the services sector were equally as hard hit.

"Marketing and recruitment spend are often the first budgets to be slashed in an economic downturn and last year was no exception," Walker says.

Being made redundant twice in six months is disappointing, but he says it isn't unheard of.

"I know of several cases where it's happened…Ben's case is probably quite typical in that he was made redundant following the impact of lockdown part one, hired into a new role and that company has now not seen the recovery they expected.

"I imagine we will see more impact from the commercial uncertainty caused by the current lockdowns," Walker adds.

Ahead of it's official employment snapshot, a spokesperson for job ad website SEEK confirmed that in February, the number of jobs advertised online in Auckland was just 3 percent lower than in January. The number of marketing roles advertised was up year-on-year, with 625 positions advertised on Wednesday.