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Redundancy: Consultation and Coronavirus

With further redundancies being announced this week at well known businesses across a variety of sectors there is no doubt that many employers will be facing tough decisions in the coming months. For employers who are considering proposing redundancies, planning will be key as there are a number of matters to get right, one of which is redundancy consultation.

So, what are some of the key things employers need to know when it comes to redundancy consultation in the age of coronavirus?

1. What do we need to consult about?

Employers will need to have a series of individual consultation meetings with employees who are at risk of redundancy as part of a fair redundancy consultation process. The basic matters that will need to be covered are the redundancy proposal and the business reasons for it, the redundancy selection pool, any ways of reducing or avoiding the need for redundancies (including alternative work if there is any) matters concerning selection for redundancy where this applies, and  any suggestions, questions or points raised by employees during the process.

2. How long should we consult for?

Unless an employer is proposing to make 20 or more redundancies within a period of 90 days or less, there is no set time period for consultation. That said, consultation does need to be meaningful and appropriate in the circumstances as if it is not, this can lead to a redundancy dismissal being found to be unfair. Whilst it can be tempting for employers to try to have a very short consultation period, particularly if employees seem to understand and accept the business reasons for the proposed redundancies, this will not necessarily be in the employer’s best interests. The consultation period must be long enough  to enable meaningful consultation to take place. The shorter the consultation period the more likely it is that the quality of the consultation will be called into question.

What is an appropriate length for a consultation process will depend on factors such as how many employees will need to be consulted with and whether a selection process is to be used (as opposed to an employer proposing to close the whole business/department where no selection of employees will be required). It’s always important to seek advice on the facts of your case from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd when it comes to the number of individual consultation meetings that may be required and the length of the consultation period.

3. Are there any adjustments to the usual consultation process that we might need to consider?

The guiding principles when it comes to redundancy consultation are fairness and reasonableness and it is important for employers to keep this in mind. If it is impractical for redundancy consultation meetings to take place in person, for example because the business is not permitted to open, employees have childcare or other issues that prevent them from attending, alternative methods of consultation may be needed. This could include conducting meetings over video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams if employees have the technology required.

It’s important not to forget that employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees where this is necessary, this can include making adjustments to the redundancy consultation process.

Making redundancies can be a daunting task for employers, not only is it a difficult time where employers are often under intense pressure, it can be hard to know what the ‘do’s and don’ts’ are when it comes to making redundancies. Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd can give practical advice throughout the process to help you get it right. If you are considering making redundancies in your organisation, please contact us before taking any action as we are here to help.