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Getting It Right: Redundancies - Consultation

Getting It Right: Redundancies - Consultation
Richard Hiron Nov 24,2020
blog post

Once you have completed your planning, the next step is to reach out to your employees and likely also to their representatives, whether they are trade union representatives or elected representatives from the workplace.

The law states that you must do this where:-

 

  • You are considering making between 20 and 99 employees redundant with the first redundancy due to take place in 90 days or less, in which case you must have at least 30 days’ consultation; or
  • You are considering making 100 or more employees redundant with the first redundancy due to take place in a period of 90 days or less, in which case you must have at least 45 days’ consultation.

 

You may have employees with less than 2 years’ employment, so you could possibly avoid consulting them altogether, although some businesses will prefer to include them in the consultation process to uphold a feeling of fairness and to ensure the goodwill of those employees if they are made redundant. However, even if employers are not minded to do this, they should receive advice before dismissing those employees by reason of redundancy.

When it comes to consultation, it is best to have a redundancy policy in place either within your staff handbook or, if you do not have a staff handbook, as a standalone policy. Policies are there to help you with the process by providing a sense of direction in what to do and how to do it.

If you hit the statutory triggers for entering into consultation, you must either consult with a recognised trade union or with recognised employee representatives in the workplace. This is known as “collective consultation”. Whilst it often fills employers with dread, if you have performed your planning work appropriately at the outset of the redundancy process, then your rationale for making redundancies should be clear. Consulting with trade unions or employee representatives can also help to identify other possible solutions that you might not have considered, so it is a worthwhile part of the process.

You then move into the individual consultation side of the process and, even if you do not hit the statutory triggers for consultation, it is always worth engaging in individual consultation with employees, particularly with those who have 2 or more years of continuous employment with you; it not only makes you appear more reasonable as an employer, but may lead to practical solutions for saving jobs without devastating your business.

During this process, the obligation is upon you as an employer to enter into meaningful discussions with your employees, even if their suggestions for saving their jobs may not seem practical to you. For example, if an employee makes broad assumptions about the financial state of your business, do not defiantly object to this, but take that information away from the meeting and report back on it later. This will help to demonstrate that you have considered their suggestions without simply dismissing them out of hand and that you have come up with reasons why their suggestions either might work or might not.

Likewise, employees and their representatives are likely to have a number of questions during these meetings. Some of them may be easy for you to answer, but it is often the case that a question will arise that you cannot answer immediately. If you do not know then answer, then simply say that you will need to consider their question further and respond at a later date once you have the information available. Employees and their representatives have a tendency to grasp onto perceived promises in these meetings, so there is no shame in not having your answer available at that time. By the same token, do not give knee-jerk responses to try and satisfy them immediately because the chances are that you won't!

In other words, the key with consultation is to be calm, measured and to report back at a later date where necessary, rather than being accused of trying to force someone out of the business. Always keep in the back of your mind that consultation is a two-way process.

This article is intended for information purposes only and not as a substitute for legal advice. TP Legal does not accept any responsibility for any decisions that you may make as a result of reading this article.

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