VRS - supplementary guidance for Heads of Department

The Voluntary Redundancy Scheme (VRS) overview and Procedure give full details of the scheme, together with some FAQs for staff. 

This supplementary guidance aims to help Heads of Departments to approach the review of the activity of their department and to identify whether the VRS might be used in their efforts to reduce staffing costs. (If a department decides not to use the VRS, then they should still ensure that relevant staff are aware of the arrangements for bump severance so that any applications coming forward can be responded to).

Key considerations and overarching principles

In considering which posts might be considered to be in scope of the VRS, it is important to focus on the department’s need for particular types of work, services and activities, and whether activities can be stopped, or significantly reduced so that a post, or posts, can be closed.   

The department’s requirement for particular posts must be entirely dissociated from the current postholder in your considerations: ie the VRS must not be used to address issues of performance, capability, attendance, or other management issues, for which appropriate management processes should be used.

Identifying posts which might be closed/activities which might be stopped or reduced

Recommended actions

  • Rely on your Departmental Administrator/Head of Administration and Finance to advise you about the administrative and operational needs of the department and current staffing arrangements. You may find it helpful to look at job descriptions for your existing staff, to ensure that you are familiar with the full range of activities currently being undertaken.
  • Consider your departmental strategic plans and identify your core activities:  what is needed to support them for the future?
  • Identify what scale of reduction in staffing costs you think is achievable through VRS – are there some distinct areas of activity that could be closed completely? or will reorganisation across a range of posts be more effective?
  • Establish a departmental group to work with you on identifying posts for potential inclusion, making use of pre-existing departmental committees where appropriate (this group may also be required to make selections between posts in the event that multiple staff volunteer for VRS).
  • Divisions may work with you to look at re-structuring services across departments (noting that major restructuring is a longer-term process which is not in scope in this exercise).
  • Consider any mechanisms which are already in place in your department in response to the Headcount controls (for example, do you have a mechanism to review the need for posts before any vacant post is refilled?)
  • Use objective criteria to identify which areas of departmental activity might be in scope.

Bear in mind that:

  • this is a voluntary redundancy scheme.  This means you will be offering staff the option to voluntarily resign from their posts, there is no obligation for them to do so.  If they do not wish to take VRS, you cannot compel them (this is not a stage of the standard redundancy process) and if no volunteers come forward the department will need to review how savings can be made. 
  • your staffing levels may change through natural staff turnover or retirement  during this process and your plans will need to be reviewed in light of any changes.
  • in order for posts to be closed, activity will need to reduce and you will need to manage (and reduce) the expectations of colleagues regarding the level of support, and speed of response, they can expect for the future.
  • proposals for staffing reductions must take care not to place unacceptable strain on staff who would remain.
  • you will need to manage the impact of proposals on staff who are not in scope (ie who will not be offered VRS) and concerns they may have about increased workload, or decreased service/response levels.
  • NB In the event that your deliberations identify that compulsory redundancies may be required this VRS scheme must not be used.  Your Departmental Administrator should speak to your HR Business Partner without delay


Careful communication of decisions, and outcomes and future plans will be needed. Telling staff that their post is potentially not essential to the strategic future of the department will inevitably impact on how valued and motivated they feel, especially if they do not wish to take VRS.  Messages need to focus on the future, long-term strategic needs of the department, whilst acknowledging the valuable work that has contributed to the past successes of the department.