Knock-knock. Who's there? You're fired


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The Independent Online

If there's one thing worse than losing your job, it's discovering you've lost your job when your security pass won't get you into your building, which is now guarded by beefy security guards who don't compute "empathy". It's the workplace equivalent of getting home to find the locks changed and your stuff on the pavement in bin bags.

If you work in the money business, redundancy can come not with an oversized card and an office whip-round, but the coldest of shoulders. This week, 100 traders at UBS claimed they arrived at the bank's London HQ to find their passes no longer worked. "It was like salami slicing," one trader in the nearest pub told Reuters, possibly misusing financial jargon.

UBS, which plans to cut 10,000 jobs worldwide has denied blocking access to card holders. The traders were handed letters explaining they had not been put at risk of redundancy but were on "special leave" while the bank's "consultation on restructuring" started.

It remains to be seen whether any will be welcomed back (few will be holding their breath) but their treatment on Tuesday is standard procedure in a world where humans are resources in the harshest sense of the word.

Since shell-shocked, box-carrying employees of Lehman Brothers helped create one of the defining images of the crash in 2008, thousands have suffered a similar, depressing fate. If you're not locked out, you can be blocked by security guards from reaching your desk, lest you blow millions in a revenge trade or remove sensitive information or contacts from company networks (anyone who saw the Lehmans-inspired film, Margin Call, will know the potential significance to a troubled bank of a memory stick).

Axed employees may be presented with their belongings, or be forced to ask colleagues to deliver them. Sure, many will live it up for months on tidy packages, but they don't last forever. It's worth any of us considering when we reach the revolving doors (meanwhile, check your desk drawers for anything embarrassing).