Answers to frequently asked questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and redundancy situations.
Being told you are at risk of redundancy puts pressure on you and your family. Unfortunately, given the times we are living through, redundancy consultations are becoming increasingly frequent. Such meetings are incredibly important but employees at risk are often stressed and anxious at the very time they need to be thinking clearly.
At its essence, any redundancy process involves your employer stating that they do not need you anymore. After years of hard work, long hours, interrupted holidays and dedication to a business, this can be a very difficult message to hear. Legal definitions of redundancy refer to job roles and employers will often say their decision is not personal, however it is obviously personal to you which is why you should fully engage with the process.
All redundancy processes will involve some type of redundancy consultation. Often this will take the form of a meeting (at the moment probably virtual or over the phone) with your employer. It is important to attend the consultation meetings and raise any concerns you have about the redundancy process. The types of questions you ask, or representations you make, will depend upon your personal situation. However, I set out below some of the more common queries raised:-
1. Is this a genuine redundancy situation?
In the current climate, with businesses in lockdown, the existence of a redundancy situation or the circumstances resulting in fewer members of staff being needed by your employer might be self-evident.
However, depending upon your employer’s business, you may take a different view and consider that there is no need for a reduction of staffing at all. This might be the situation if your employer is suggesting redundancies at the same time as seeking to recruit staff for a similar or the same job role as the employees at risk.
Alternatively, you might consider you are being targeted for reasons wholly unrelated to any genuine restructure or redundancy.
You should be ready to challenge your employer about the need for redundancies. Ask why; why now; what are they hoping the redundancy or redundancies will achieve; what will happen to your duties and responsibilities; what alternatives have they considered (for example, furlough etc)? Make sure your concerns are known and make sure you obtain a response from your employer to your questions. Also make sure there is a record of any evidence you present contradicting their answers.
2. How has the pool of “at risk” employees been identified?
In circumstances where a business has closed completely, this is unlikely to be an issue as all employees will be at risk. However, if the employer is still continuing with their work and is suggesting only some employees are at risk of redundancy, they need to explain how they have decided who those employees are. If a “pool” of employees has been identified as being at risk, how was the decision made about who was and was not in the pool.
Essentially, if your employer has identified a number of people from which they intend to select some employees to be made redundant, you want to be sure that the correct people are in the pool. Challenge your employer as to how they selected the employees involved. Identify those you believe should have been included but were not and, if you believe you have been incorrectly added, challenge your inclusion in the pool of employees at risk.
3. Is the process of selection fair?
If there is a genuine redundancy situation and the pool of employees at risk is correctly identified, the next issue is criteria the employer is intending to use to select which of the employees in the pool will be made redundant.
Make sure you understand how your employer will undertake the selection, for example, have you got a copy of their criteria and process? If you have, consider whether you believe the criteria and their way of scoring are fair. Is the process discriminatory? Has too much weighting been given to some scores rather than others? Ask your employer why they have chosen the selection criteria they have.
4. Have you been fairly selected for redundancy?
If there is a genuine redundancy situation; the pool of employees at risk is correctly identified; and, there is a fair selection process, the next consideration is whether it has been applied fairly to you.
At points one to three above, the consideration has been the business need and the intended process. At this stage, you now need to consider whether your employer has been fair in selecting you. If there is a scoring system, have you been scored fairly? Has your employer taken into account other skills or benefits you bring to your job? This is about you understanding why you have been chosen and considering whether that decision was fair.
5. Has your employer considered alternatives to redundancy?
If there is a genuine redundancy situation; the pool of employees at risk is correctly identified; there is a fair selection process and, that process has been applied fairly to you, the next consideration is whether there are alternatives to your redundancy.
Your employer has an obligation to try and avoid redundancies wherever possible. That obligation extends throughout the redundancy consultation period all the way through your notice and until the termination of your employment. Therefore, alternatives to making you redundant should be considered by your employer. Examples being:
- If your contract allows for short time working, is this a viable alternative?
- Would you be willing to reduce your hours on a temporary or permanent basis?
- Could your employer furlough you using the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?
- Could you employer retain your job using the Government’s Job Support Scheme?
- Are there vacancies which you would be suitable for (with or without a period of training)?
The above is not an exhaustive list of questions and there may be other issues or concerns you have about your proposed redundancy. It is important that you use the consultation meetings to set out those concerns and obtain a response from your employer. After all, if there is a genuine redundancy situation and they are following a fair procedure, they should have no difficulty in answering your questions.
How can Lincs Law Employment Solicitors help you?
If you are going through a redundancy process and are worried about being made redundant, please call us on 01522 440512 for a free initial consultation. If you would like more information about redundancy procedures, please visit our website at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/resignation-dismissal-and-redundancy/redundancy/
If you have been made redundant and your employer’s decision was unfair, you may have an Employment Tribunal claim. Click on the link to take our online questionnaire and find out: https://lincslaw.co.uk/have-you-been-made-redundant-do-you-have-an-unfair-dismissal-claim/
Sally Hubbard, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, Lincoln
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