Redundancy headaches occupy managers’ minds

Managing
redundancy caused the biggest headache for HR this year, according to
statistics from an HR helpline.

Croner
Consulting received in excess of 100,000 calls to its employment advice lines
on more than 65 subjects throughout 2003.

More
than one in 10 calls were related to redundancy issues. This was closely
followed by employment terms and conditions; absence and sickness; disciplinary
procedures; pregnancy; and holiday and holiday pay.

Redundancy
callers’ queries ranged from fair processes of dismissal in a redundancy
situation, to assistance in calculating redundancy payments.

Cathie
Riley, employment law expert at Croner Consulting said: "Redundancy has
topped the number of calls to our helplines for the second year running. Unfair
dismissal is by far the most common type of claim to employment tribunals, so
it’s not surprising that businesses are seeking advice.

"Unfortunately,
some employers think that redundancy is a safe route for dismissing employees
with whom they have problems. This is not the case, as redundancy is a
dismissal on specific grounds and relates to the job and not the
employee."

Under
section 139 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 redundancy is only fair if the
employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business, or carry on
the business in the place where the employee was employed; or if the employee’s
work has, or is expected to cease or diminish.

Riley
said: "If an employee’s workload ceases or greatly diminishes, the
employer, as part of consultation, should consider alternative vacancies with
the employee. If a number of jobs become redundant, employees at risk should be
fairly selected for redundancy.

"Consultation
must then be held with the employees, after which a notice period should be
given. Failure to consult in redundancies involving 20 or more proposed
dismissals can result in each employee claiming a 90-day protective award.
Furthermore, those employees with more than one year’s service could claim
unfair dismissal.

"Redundancy
is a sensitive matter that can cause unrest and insecurity among remaining
employees. Employers should be as open and honest as they can, and perhaps
consider some employee relations exercises to boost morale. Croner Consulting
recommends that employers unsure of how to handle the redundancy process
fairly, or who are concerned about the disruption redundancies may cause, to
seek further advice from experienced professionals."

By Quentin Reade

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