Redundancy - Questions employees will ask
Making people redundant is never easy. We recommend that before you begin you speak with us. We have a wide range of documents on our website that will also help you. Your starting point should be our white paper Redundancy: Get It Right!. You can then use our search button to find our other resources covering redundancy.
Your staff are going to have a whole series of questions which you will need to address as you go through the redundancy process. We've pulled together some of the more important questions that you are going to be asked, and presented them for you here.
Questions are as might be posed by employees. The responses are from the manager's perspective and will need to be interpreted before responding.
Question: How long does my employer have to consult with me for?
Answer: You'll want the whole business to be over as soon as possible. Consultation is one of the longer elapsed time activities. The time for consultation depends on the number of employees to be made redundant.
Where less than 20 people are to be made redundant within a 90 day period there is no specified consultation period. The advice is ‘to begin in good time’. In order to follow a fair dismissal procedure we suggest that this consultation period is likely to be about three to four weeks long.
Where between 20 and 99 employees that made be made redundant within 90 days the consultation period is at least 30 days before the first redundancy takes place.
When more than 100 people are to be made redundant in a period of 90 days or less, then the consultation period must begin at least 45 days before the first redundancy. Failure to meet these obligations could result in a ‘protective award’ for each employee involved. This means you would have to pay out compensation if you rushed things.
Question: Will managers take seriously any suggestions I make during consultation?
Answer: There's a legal requirements for managers to consider any suggestions that employees make in order to avoid redundancies - so the simple answer is, yes, managers will consider all suggestions. There are always alternatives to redundancy. We list many in our paper Redundancy: get it right!
The problem when employees make suggestions is that the suggestions are often a bit superficial - simply because employees don't understand the whole picture. How could they - they are busy doing their jobs while managers do theirs. Employees generally don't get exposed to all the issues.
It's a legal requirement for managers to have a business plan that shows why redundancy will be a solution to the firm's ills. This could be shared with employees to improve the quality of employee suggestions.
Question: Do I have a statutory right to have someone with me during the meetings?
Answer: There is no statutory right for employees 'at risk' to have a companion for the initial meetings, however at the final meeting (which must be called by letter indicating that dismissal may take place) there is a right for the person to have a trade union representative or a colleague with them during that meeting.
Generally, however, we'd recommend that employees are allowed to have a companion in all meetings where they attend alone with managers. It's a daunting time and there's no reason to forbid this and every reason to allow it: managers must be sensitive in order to sustain the commitment of those remaining.
Question: Can I be made redundant and my work be picked up by someone else?
Answer: Where more than one person undertakes the same role and there is a requirement to reduce numbers of employees then those employees not selected for redundancy will take on all the duties previously undertaken by a large number of staff.
This is a huge issue. Asking employees not being made redundant to pick up work from those redundant will likely cause reduced commitment in those remaining. It may also heighten strain, which, if not managed, will lead to stress.
Be aware that if you make one person redundant and then employ another person within three months to undertake the same role, this will be in breach of redundancy regulations. In these circumstances the role is not actually redundant.
Question: My firm employs me and a few other employees in a team augmented by a number of contractors. The firm is going to make some of the employees redundant while retaining the contractors. Can they do this?
Answer: This practice of keeping contractors and making employees redundant is quite common and there are several explanations for it.
Firstly, if contractors are engaged properly, they will be on a contract for services and they will be delivering those services against a statement of deliverables. As such, they are like any other supplier. Their engagement will cease when their deliverables are complete.
Secondly, typically, contractors are engaged because they have very specific skills and knowledge not available in the employee group. And the firm has only short-term need of such skills and knowledge.
Thirdly, often, contractors are engaged by project managers in a firm. They are not employed through the HR department and hence are not on payroll and not covered by the firm's salary budget. They are often funded by a client contract.
All that said, some firms engage contractors because it's simply a quick 'hire' and equally quick 'fire'. Often they are just substitutes for employees. In that case it's for the firm to look to its morals if it keeps contractors on while making employees redundant. The firm should expect the commitment of those employees remaining to be damaged - and it might also get a visit from HMRC (pursuing undeclared taxes) if an agrieved employee tips them they wink.
Question: My company employs me full-time and also employs a part-time person to do the same job I do. Why can't they just make the part-time person redundant and keep me?
Answer: Where several people undertake the same, or very similar roles, they must be put into a pool and everyone considered against the same criteria. Points are then awarded based on the criteria used and those with the least points are the people who will be made redundant. Making a part-time person redundant, or taking a ‘last-in, first-out’ approach is not lawful and will lead to claims of unfair dismissal.
If you are a manager and you have a general redundancy question, get in touch. We can answer your question and then share a generic response here.
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