6 things employers need to think about before making staff redundant

6 things employers need to think about before making staff redundant

6 things employers need to think about before making staff redundant

 

The BBC news report yesterday that Citizens Advice is now receiving calls seeking redundancy advice once every two minutes is staggering.

We talked to Society Matters’ employment and discrimination specialist Richard Owen, who has over 40 years’ experience of advising and tribunal representation in employment and discrimination cases, to get his thoughts on what employers need to be thinking about if they are considering making staff redundant, particularly when people are returning from furlough.

Here are the top 6 pieces of advice Richard would offer to employers to ensure they don’t fall foul of their legal responsibilities to their staff during these difficult times:

 

1. Plan ahead

It is now essential that employers start to plan ahead. Make sure you have a clear business strategy including processes, paperwork, timetables and the right people in place to manage the redundancies. To give you a hand if you need it, Society Matters’ employment law team has prepared a checklist of things employers need to think about before making redundancies. Click here to request a copy now.

2. Think about your core business functions first

It really is advisable to decide from the outset which employees and/or roles are essential for the continuation of the core business function, including possible merging of roles, restructuring of departments and teams. Carefully consider any options for changing the operation of the business to minimise redundancies (such as homeworking, flexible hours, reduced hours, alternate or rotating shift patterns). Also consider asking for voluntary redundancies – this might help you to reduce your staff numbers to acceptable levels (although you may also risk losing people from core roles, so make sure you have your criteria set out first before you go for this option).

3. Prepare your selection criteria carefully

The pool of employees to be placed at risk, and the selection and scoring criteria to be used to make your ultimate decisions, need be prepared very carefully, ensuring that the criteria are then applied fairly and consistently. You’re at liberty to choose your own criteria which should be fair and if possible objective and measurable – such as length of service, disciplinary record, absence record, skills and competencies, standards of performance, qualifications, flexibility. Just be fully prepared, for each criteria you use, to justify the scoring of employees against these criteria if challenged (that’s why you need to be as objective as you can). It can be very risky to base a score solely on someone’s verbal personal opinion.

4. Follow the legal process

It’s really important that you follow the correct procedures at all times including all stages of consultation with the affected employees, ensuring clarity and transparency throughout. Refer to ACAS website if you are unsure of the process to follow. Above all, remember that consultation is not just a tick box exercise and must be meaningful and proactive. Ensure that each employee has a fair opportunity to have their say. Remember to also consult with those employees who are not at risk but may be expected to take on additional duties as a result of redundancies. If you’re unsure it’s definitely best to seek advice from an employment law adviser before taking action.

5. Try to find alternatives to redundancy

Do everything you can during the whole process (including notice periods) to find alternatives to redundancy for each employee affected. Remember this is a legal duty. Please consider seriously any positive suggestions made by employees regarding alternative roles that they think you could offer them, as failure to do so may cause you serious problems later.

6. Keep in touch with government incentives

Finally, when considering the financial impact don’t forget the Chancellor’s announcement of a government bonus of £1000 payable to every employer for each employee taken back to work off furlough”. Details are available on the .gov website if you’d like to know more click here.

 

The team at Society Matters cic understands that there are difficult times ahead for employers and it is inevitable that many jobs will be lost. It is clear now that many businesses that have already lost so much are at risk of losing so much more, especially when it comes to our greatest assets which are our employees.

It is more important now than ever that we stick to the regulations and protect our employees as much as we can – they are the people who keep us moving through all our business challenges and they are the very people who will get us through this unprecedented time too. By working with your employees to find a solution to the difficulties you’re facing you could find a way through you hadn’t even considered before.

For more employment law advice from Richard Owen read this 10 point checklist for employers worried about getting back to business

Employment Tribunals continue digitally during Covid19 pandemic

Employment Tribunals continue digitally during Covid19 pandemic

Employment tribunals continue digitally during Covid-19 pandemic

 

Anyone involved in Employment Tribunal cases should be aware that, under the procedural rules which govern Tribunals, the overriding objective is to enable the Tribunal to deal with cases fairly and justly.   This is set out in the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013.

How are Tribunal claims being processed during the pandemic?

Although from our own discussions with clients it seems the general assumption is that, like the courts, the Tribunals are not operating during the pandemic, this isn’t the case. They are continuing to operate and their offices remain open to process and progress claims.

Claims should continue to be submitted on-line as normal.  There will be no automatic extensions to time limits due to Coronavirus-related delays, although individual applications to extend time can be considered as in the usual way. However, there will be inevitable delays in the process due, for example, to reduced admin staff levels and Judges working from home. All face to face hearings are currently suspended but these have been replaced with telephone-based Case Management discussions with the parties to decide how existing cases should proceed.

Case Management hearings can be undertaken by phone

In order to give effect to the overriding objective during the Covid-19 pandemic, Tribunals have been given guidance about dealing with the restrictions which will impact on how cases can be dealt with practically and realistically. Where all parties have legal representation Case Management hearings have for some time been conducted by telephone conference call, with the agreement of the parties and the Tribunal. Hearings have usually only taken place face-to-face if either of the parties involved are not legally represented.

During the pandemic all of these hearings for the time being will be conducted by telephone, provided this meets the overriding objective.

Next steps can be undertaken by video conference

Tribunals will be considering whether and in what circumstances judicial mediations, preliminary hearings and full hearings can proceed effectively and fairly by being dealt with remotely utilising video link technology. At Case Management discussions parties will be asked to discuss whether they are interested in and able to participate in this type of hearing, to avoid the matter being delayed indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.

In making this decision a number of important issues are considered, including:

Does the Tribunal concerned have access to the necessary technology?

Do the parties and their representatives have access to the necessary technology?

If the Judge (and panel members if relevant) and the parties are not present in their offices can all parties have simultaneous access to the case documents and papers, either hard copy or electronic?

Will representatives be able to consult privately with clients during the case?

Will all parties be able to understand and fully participate in the hearing?

Will parties be in a suitable environment where there will be no distractions or disturbances?

What alternatives are there if the suggested method of remote hearing is not possible or practical?

Is the only practical option in a case to delay until it is possible for face to face hearings to resume?

Above all, is it in accordance with the overriding objective to hold a hearing by remote means?

Often the progression of the case using video conferencing will be feasible but inevitably there will be exceptions. Tribunals are treading unknown territory during the pandemic as we all are, however there is an imperative on Tribunals to ensure that as far as reasonably possible the wheels of justice continue to turn so there’s definitely hope. There’s no doubt of course that a high level of co-operation between all  parties and the Tribunals will be necessary to make sure the process works, and only retrospectively will we be able to tell how effective this has proven to be.

If you need representation to help you to pursue a matter through the Tribunal during the pandemic, get in touch with Citizens Advice for free advice on the best way to achieve this or go to their website here. You can also contact Society Matters cic employment law service for information about our fair and affordable fixed fee tribunals service.

10 point checklist for employers worried about getting back-to-business

10 point checklist for employers worried about getting back-to-business

It’s totally understandable that many employers faced with thinking about getting back to the business as we start to move into the Covid-19 recovery might feel like heading for the hills.

Expect the unexpected

Richard Owen, Society Matters’ employment law and discrimination specialist, recommends that businesses need to plan hard – expect the unexpected and do your best to think about all of the eventualities in advance – and to get advice about anything you aren’t sure about to help you to make socially responsible decisions that get the best outcomes for the staff as well as the business.

“It’s a challenging time for everyone, but employers have to shoulder responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of their staff as well as their customers, so there’s a lot to think about. Then of course none of us have been here before – we’re in un-chartered territories which makes it that much harder.”

So here’s our 10 point checklist to get you started

 

1. Can the business afford to continue to operate with all the pre-lockdown workforce or will redundancies have to be considered? We’re living in uncertainty at the moment, so the more clarity you have on this point the better – try to make this decision sooner rather than later, then do everything you can to stick to it. It may be that you have to start from determining the minimum essential workforce you will need to continue to carry out the business function and work from there.

 

2. Should you start discussions with the continuing workforce over terms and conditions (including temporary changes until things pick up to near pre-lockdown levels)? Consultation is key, so the earlier you start these conversations the easier it will be for everyone involved.

 

3. How will the way you manage the business day to day need to change, in the short and possibly even the long term, and how would you expect these changes to affect your staff?

 

4. Can you change working practices to enable more homeworking, and if this will improve business viability what investments might you need to make to improve access to IT and telephony? Can you start talking to your suppliers now to evaluate some options?

 

5. What changes will you need to make to your policies and procedures associated with staff and safety if you do plan to change your working practices?

 

6. If homeworking isn’t practical for some or all of the time, what social distancing and health measures need to be put in place in your workplace to ensure you provide a safe working environment (think about the layout of work stations and furniture, machinery, break out areas, public face to face areas/interview rooms, washing and hand sanitising facilities). Check the latest government HSE guidelines for safe working so you cover every aspect.

 

7. Think about the adjustments that may need to be made or altered in respect of any disabled employees, and also for staff with health conditions which do not amount to a disability under the Equality Act, as well as staff with caring responsibilities and pregnant women. Talking openly to the staff who may be affected is definitely a good starting point as they are highly likely to be able to help you to understand the barriers they may face that you may not even have considered.

 

8. You’ll also need to consider whether restrictions on use of public transport could affect staff getting to and from work. Can you provide some flexibility on start and finish times, and help people to consider alternative forms of transport such as bike or car (do you have car parking space you could offer to staff that previously wouldn’t have been available)?

 

9. There’s no doubt that for lots of reasons you will encounter employees who are reluctant or refuse to return to work because of their concerns about becoming infected. How are you going to anticipate this and what policies can you put in place to alleviate their concerns and support them with their transition? 

 

10. Back the first point. Now you’ve considered all of this, what are the practical, logistical and importantly the financial implications of the decisions you’ve now made, and what help or advice do you need to make further progress with your plans?

 

If you need to talk through any of your concerns, or get advice on employment and discrimination issues to help you to make the right decisions to get back to business please get in touch with Richard and the team here at Society Matters cic.

 

#StaySafe #MakeYourMark

Dealing with unfair treatment at work

Dealing with unfair treatment at work

Work should be a rewarding environment. Yes, we all have bad days, but if you have a job with supportive colleagues and managers you should expect to be happy in your work most of the time. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Some employees may end up facing unfair treatment at work, and this can have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health as well as making the workplace a difficult place to be, no matter how generously they may be paid for what they do.

When you are facing unfair treatment at work it can take a while to realise that it’s not you that’s the problem but the person or people handing out the unfair treatment. It’s also sometimes not so easy to recognise that the way you’re being treated may actually be classed as discrimination, and is therefore against the law.

We talked this through with Richard Owen, our Job Law Employment and Discrimination Specialist who has over 35 years’ experience in this field, and Associate Employment Solicitor Azra Choudry, who has recently joined Richard to help people facing challenges with their employment. We asked Richard and Azra about how to spot unfair treatment in the workplace, and this is what they had to say:

Unfair treatment at work – and when is this discrimination?

We live in a diverse and vibrant society and our law recognises these differences, giving everyone a right to be protected equally under the Equality Act 2010. This legislation defines the nine ‘protected characteristics’ as:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

If you think you are being unfairly treated, and this has anything to do with any of these protected characteristics, chances are you are being discriminated against at work.

How to spot unfair treatment at work and what to do next

Richard and Azra describe how unfair treatment at work can stem from small issues relating to the way your Manager or colleagues interact with you.

Types of unfair treatment in the workplace can include:

  • Bullying (e.g. being shouted at or humiliated in front of colleagues);
  • Being given an excessive workload;
  • Being expected to achieve unrealistic targets;
  • Micro-management;
  • Exclusion from team activities, meetings and challenges;
  • Being picked on or singled out by Managers or colleagues;
  • Not being given the opportunity to participate in training or personal development.

If you notice you are being treated differently at work compared with other employees you should raise your concerns with your employer, but Richard and Azra also suggest you might find it helpful to follow these guidelines first:

1) check your contract – make sure you are familiar with your employment contract to understand what it is you agreed upon starting your employment and what has happened since;

2) keep a record – if you feel you are being treated unfairly make sure you keep a record of dates, emails, texts and events that may help you if you need to prove your case in the future;

3) act quickly but not on the spur of the moment – whilst you should act as quickly as possible when you feel you are being mistreated we would advise against resigning immediately without getting advice first. You should always consider making a formal grievance to your employer to try to resolve the issues. If you do feel you have to resign make sure you explain the reasons in writing.

Am I being discriminated against?

Sometimes the motive behind the unfair treatment can relate to one of more of the protected characteristics that we mentioned earlier, and in that case it may be classed as discrimination. For example,

One of the most common forms of discrimination found in the workplace relates to disability. According to research carried out by Scope, the disability equality charity in England and Wales, a staggering 48% of survey participants were unware of their rights as disabled employees. The report also goes on to say that 1 in 4 also believed they had missed out on securing a job due to their condition or impairment.

A report from the Young Women’s Trust also outlines issues like gender discrimination to be a lot more common within the workplace than you might think. For example 23% of woman aged 16 – 30 admitted that they had faced sexual harassment at work but only 8% of these women reported their situation.

The Race at Work report published findings that showed 28% of employees from Black, Asian and Minority Ethic (BAME) backgrounds had experienced racial harassment or bullying from their manager in the last five years.

If you think you are experiencing some of these issues or other unfair treatment associated with the nine protected characteristics, and wonder whether you may have a potential discrimination case against your employer, Azra suggests that it is always best to compare how you are being treated against other colleagues without your protected characteristic first. Ask yourself, compared to my colleagues …

1. Am I being treated unfairly?

2. What is the reason for the treatment?

3. Am I being treated differently to others?

4. Am I being put at a disadvantage compared to others?

5. Is there a direct link, or explicit words or actions, connecting the treatment and my protected characteristic e.g. specifically relating to gender, race, disability etc.

6. Is there another plausible explanation for the treatment?

If, having considered these points, you think the unfair treatment is due to your protected characteristics you should read this article from Citizens Advice which provides you a clear 3 step plan on what to do next if you think you are being discriminated against at work.

Seek Advice from Job Law

If you feel like you have experienced unfair treatment or discrimination in the workplace you may want to talk it through with an employment law specialist before you take action. Richard Owen and Azra Choudry are here to help.

Get in touch today at info@societymatterscic.com