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Anticipating cutbacks in staff

If the new contract is accepted, some practices will very likely find themselves faced with increased staffing costs and the possibility of having to make staff redundant. In which case it would be wise to plan ahead now by establishing a procedure for handling redundancies.

A poorly thought-out approach to redundancy handling can result in unnecessary tribunal costs as well as damage to practice performance and staff morale.

Redundancy arises when employees are dismissed because:

 · The employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was so employed; or

 · The employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business in the place where the employee was so employed; or

 · The requirements of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind has ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish; or

 · The requirements of the business for the employees to carry out work of a particular kind, in the place where they were so employed, has ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish.

A practice procedure on redundancy handling should contain the following elements:

 · A statement of intent towards maintaining job security, wherever practicable

 · Details of the consultation arrangements

 · The measures for minimising or avoiding compulsory redundancies

 · Guidance on the selection criteria to be used

 · Details of the severance terms (see box)

 · Details of appeals procedures.

Practices should consider the following measures for minimising or avoiding compulsory redundancies;

 · Natural wastage

 · Retraining and redeployment

 · Reduction or elimination of overtime

 · Retirement of those employees already beyond normal retirement age

 · Seeking applicants for early retirement, or voluntary redundancy

 · Termination of the employment of temporary or contract staff

 · Voluntary redundancy and/or early retirement

Where a redundancy is to occur from within a 'pool' ­ for example among reception or nursing staff ­ details should be given about how employees will be selected for redundancy. Selection criteria should be fair, consistent and objective. Care needs to be taken to ensure they are neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory on grounds of race, sex or disability.

Selection may be based on:

 · The skills, experience and aptitude of the employee

 · The standard of work performance

 · Last in, first out

 · The attendance or disciplinary record of the employee

 · The potential of the employee to be adaptable should alternative work be offered.

In all circumstances, regardless of practice size and number of employees to be dismissed, GPs should consult as soon as practicable and as fully as possible with staff potentially affected and, where appropriate, with any trade unions or employee representatives.

Case law has shown that dismissals have been found to be unfair where individual staff members or trade union representatives have not been consulted.

The following information should be provided so that staff affected can play a constructive part in the consultation process:

 · The reasons for the proposals

 · The numbers and descriptions of employees it is proposed to dismiss as redundant

 · The way in they will be selected for redundancy

 · How the dismissals are to be carried out.

Employees who unreasonably refuse an offer of suitable alternative employment may lose any entitlement to redundancy pay.

An employee who is under notice of redundancy has a statutory right to a trial period of four weeks in an alternative job where the provisions of the new contract differ from the original contract.

Employees under notice of redundancy and who qualify for a statutory redundancy payment also have a statutory entitlement to a reasonable amount of paid time off to look for another job or to arrange training.

Statutory redundancy payments

An employee must have at least two years' continuous service to claim statutory payments

For each complete year of service, up to a maximum of 20, employees are entitled to:

 · For each year of service at age 18 or over but under 22 ­ half a week's pay

 · For each year of service at age 22 but under 41 ­ one week's pay

 · For each year of service at age 41 or over but under 65 ­

one-and-a-half weeks' pay

Where the normal retirement age for the job is 65 and an employee is within 12 months of that age, the entitlement is reduced by 1/12th for each complete month after the employee's 64th birthday

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