There are 2 key issues businesses need to focus on now, well before the end of furlough season.
– Redundancy planning and avoiding unnecessary liabilities
– Responding to ongoing employee concerns about Coronavirus
As the furlough grants are reducing, redundancy decisions are having to be faced. Even if there are only one or two redundancies to be made, that is a decision to make sooner rather than later where possible.
Where the number of ‘dismissals’ is 20 or more, this will usually raise obligations to elect employee representatives and to consult collectively. (It is important to note that ‘dismissal’ here has an unexpected meaning. It includes not only those who may lose their jobs, but will extend to those who continue to work under new terms of employment when their current terms have been terminated.)
Tens of thousands of pounds to be saved
Delaying redundancy decisions, whether collective or with individuals, until furlough payments will only mean additional costs and liabilities to the business that could be avoided. When the decision is made, the notice period will have to be paid at 100% of pay in the majority of cases. Employers should either take the 80% furlough grant towards that notice pay or take steps (and we can help here) to avoid that notice pay being payable at all. It may also be possible to offset accrued holiday pay that would otherwise be payable on termination.
Even where there are only 1 or 2 redundancies, savings will frequently be several thousand pounds. 5 or more and the savings will measured in tens of thousands.
Of course, in the current circumstances there will be some complications and many discrimination and unfair dismissal will arise inadvertently. Selection and dismissal processes need to be carefully considered, but inaction will rarely be the best option. The best option will be to take expert advice from someone who understands these issues.
No sitting on the fence, just direct practical help
Most employers focus solely on the process involved in making redundancies, thinking that as long as they follow the correct process they won’t be caught out with unfair dismissal claims. The result can often be adopting long and drawn out procedures that are just not necessary and costs the business money it can ill afford. Worse than that, the rigid adherence to process can itself lead to poor communication or upset that has the effect of making Employment Tribunal claims more likely, not less.
When employers come to us, our focus is on looking at the facts and ensuring the communication with employees affected leads to a conclusion where the employees selected for redundancy, and their advisers, understand and accept the reasonableness of the decision to let them go.
Often that means we take a far more direct approach that you might expect (though not if you’ve worked with us before!). Why drag things out by long or unnecessary procedures if the end outcome is obvious? We help you deliver your message in direct yet sympathetic manner. Good communication is, as always, key.
Of course, when there are multiple redundancies to be made then adopting scoring matrices and a published plan for consultation may well be appropriate. We can help you do all of that and can provide HR personnel to help handle meetings with employees and deal with the process internally if necessary. Taking the additional time can be desirable especially where there is proposal to dismiss 20 or more employees, since breaching collective consultation obligations can lead to financial penalties of up to 90 days’ pay for each affected employee, even if they shouldn’t be made redundant.
We can help you reason why
And when you know someone has to go, but you’re not sure that selection for redundancy can be justified, we will help. It is rare that after short discussion with an employer that we don’t discover there is in fact a perfectly legitimate and fair justification for a proposed dismissal which can be communicated to the employee and relied on in defence of any claims.
We don’t say no if they’ve got to go.
Responding to ongoing employee concerns about Coronavirus
This is going to be a big issue and it is important not to let employee concerns about Coronavirus affect the redundancy process, unless there is good reason to do so. Sometime, if an employee is too scared to return, it may be that this becomes a relevant consideration in the process. The issues are very complex, but we’ve written a little about it here.
The best advice we can offer, however, is just to get in touch and let us take the strain for you, avoiding tribunal claims and saving you thousands of pounds by helping you to be proactive and act quickly.