Employers must “exhaust all possible alternatives” before making redundancies, a joint statement from Acas, the Confederation of British Industry and the TUC has urged.
The three organisations acknowledged the “devastating impact” Covid-19 has had on employers, with changes to working practices, disrupted supply chains and in many sectors reduced demand for products and services.
They said: “Faced with making quick decisions in a fragile economic environment, it can feel as if there are no good answers. No one wants to deliver bad news; and losing people or being made redundant is traumatic, especially for workers and their families.
“We know that times are tough, and that as a last resort, employers may make redundancies. But our message is that employers should exhaust all possible alternatives before making redundancies. These often emerge from effective consultation with workers and trade unions.”
The statement comes after the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week that coronavirus restrictions will be in place for a further six months, with hospitality businesses forced to close at 10pm and office employees encouraged to work from home where possible.
There have also been reports that chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering a short-time wage subsidy similar to the German Kurzarbeit scheme once the existing furlough scheme closes at the end of October.
The statement added: “Across our networks and members, we have seen joint decisions to save jobs based, for example, upon more part-time working, cuts to overtime, alternative roles, and retraining.
“When employers, unions and employee representatives work together, solutions can often result in retaining loyal skilled staff, and help avoid the costs of redundancy, employment tribunals and recruitment when the economy recovers.”
The bodies offer five principles for employers to consider if they are facing tough decisions in the coming weeks.
Do it openly: following the rules for collective redundancies (involving 20 or more staff), “but whatever the scale, the sooner people understand the situation, the better for everyone”.
Do it thoroughly: offer employees the information and guidance they need to make decisions, and train staff representatives in the processes.
Do it genuinely: “Consultation means hearing people’s views before you make a decision; so be open to alternatives from individuals and/or unions; and always feed back.”
Do it fairly: organisations must ensure that the procedures take place without any form of discrimination.
Do it with dignity: “Losing your job has a human as a well as a business cost. The way you let people go says a lot about your organisation’s values,” the advice continues. Companies must think carefully about how they handle these conversations, whether face-to-face or remote. They should also bear in mind that they want to hire someone again the future.