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.