Consult consult consult
Many employees say very little during a redundancy consultation process, but it's important that you participate and ask all the questions you can. If you don't agree with the rationale behind the redundancy proposal, explain why. If you can think of an alternative way of dealing with the issue - for example all employees in the department reducing their hours a little to save money - then put forward your suggestions. An employer doesn't have to agree with what you say, but it should approach the situation with an open mind and give genuine and meaningful consideration to your suggestions. If a proposal is rejected the employer should say why. Don't be afraid to ask for things to be confirmed in writing.
A question that often arises is whether an employee is entitled to see the score sheets of others if they have been placed in a selection pool. An employer does not, as a matter of course, need to provide you with these because the information is confidential to the other employees, but if you request them an employer should normally provide anonymised information so that you can see where you fall within the scoring. For obvious reasons criticising others' score may be difficult as a result, but not impossible.
Employers will often set a timeframe for the consultation process. However, legally (save for collective consultation processes where 20 or more employees are at risk of redundancy) there is no minimum - or maximum - consultation period. Ultimately an employer needs to follow a reasonable procedure, and bringing the process to an end before an employee's questions have been answered is unlikely to be reasonable. If you feel that by the end of the process there are still matters to be discussed, ask your employer to extend the consultation process.
Preparing for meetings
It's good practice for employers to allow employees to be accompanied to redundancy consultation meetings by a colleague or trade union representative, but legally there's no statutory right. Certainly it's worthwhile checking your organisation’s policies and procedures to see whether they normally permit employees to be accompanied. Additionally, if an employee has a disability or English is not their first language, an employer should look sympathetically upon requests to be accompanied.
Another tip is to prepare your responses in writing (or at least have notes) so that you do not, in the heat of the moment, forgot the points you wish to make and there can be no confusion over what you say.
Employers will normally take notes of meetings and let you have a copy of the minutes following the meeting and give you an opportunity to comment on their accuracy. If there is no note taker, then you can ask for the meeting to be recorded.
If you are involved in a collective consultation process (i.e. where 20 or more employees are at risk), the consultation is much more prescriptive in terms of minimum length (30 days if 20 or more redundancies are proposed, 45 days if 100 or more are proposed). Consultation will take place with employee or trade union representatives regarding specific topics:
- the reasons for redundancies
- ways of avoiding redundancies (such as consideration of alternatives such as reducing hours, short-term lay-offs, seeking volunteers rather than imposing compulsory redundancies)
- how to keep the number of dismissals to a minimum
- how to limit the effects for employees involved, for example by offering retraining or enhanced redundancy payments.
Collective consultation does not mean that individual consultation is not needed. Individuals should still be consulted with so that their individual circumstances can be taken into account.
It's sometimes sensible for employee representatives to request their employer to make a contribution to them seeking legal advice on the situation. An employer is not obliged to do this, but it may be reasonable in the circumstances. An alternative is for employees to club together to seek advice.
Time off to look for a new job
Employees under notice of termination of their employment by reason of redundancy are legally entitled to time-off work to look for a new job or arrange training for future employment.
There are no formal steps to be followed in order to exercise this right, however, the time off must be "reasonable" and the employee can only complain to a tribunal if the employer has refused to allow the request “unreasonably”. Unfortunately, there is no definition of what is reasonable/unreasonable, but ideally the employee should give the employer a reasonable amount of notice of the requested time off and adequate information about how the time will be used in order for the employer to determine whether it is reasonable to grant the request.
Employees are entitled to be paid for time off to search for a new job, however the maximum amount that an employee is entitled to during the duration of their notice period is 40% of a week’s pay (for example, an employee works 5 days a week and takes 4 days off in total during the whole notice period - the employer only has to pay them for the first 2 days). Although there is in theory no restriction on the amount of time off that can be taken (provided it is reasonable), an employee who is refused further time off once the limit on pay has been reached would not be able to bring a claim. In practice, many employers will pay their employees in excess of the statutory maximum entitlement as a matter of policy
Payments on redundancy
An employee is entitled to receive notice of termination of their employment. This will be either their contractual notice or statutory notice (roughly a week for each year of employment, subject to a maximum of 12 weeks' notice after 12 years' employment), whichever is greater.
In addition an employee with at least two years' service as at the date of dismissal is entitled to receive a statutory redundancy payment calculated as follows:
AGE FACTOR x COMPLETE YEARS OF CONTINUOUS SERVICE x WEEK’S PAY
The correct age factor is determined as follows:
- One and a half weeks' pay for each complete year of service in which the employee was aged 41.
- One week's pay for each complete year of service in which the employee was aged 22-40. at
- Half a week's pay for each complete year of service in which the employee was under the age of 22.
The figure used for weekly pay is capped at £489 and the length of service is capped at 20 years.
Employees are also entitled to receive pay in respect of any accrued but untaken holiday pay.
A redundancy process is undoubtedly an unpleasant thing to go through, but understanding your rights as to what you can and can't do can make things significantly easier and often improves the outcomes for all concerned.