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Legal lessons - How do I manage a redundancy?

Advice on another practice problem from barristers Michael Salter and Chris Bryden

Advice on another practice problem from barristers Michael Salter and Chris Bryden

The situation

Because we have recently implemented a new filing system in our practice, I now have no need to employ two members of staff who used to handle the filing of patient records. What can I do?

The advice

Such situations often arise in businesses, and are the source of much employment tribunal litigation. In short, the practice is faced with a redundancy situation because its need for employees doing that sort of work has diminished.

In every redundancy situation there are a number of stages the employer must go through in order to ensure they are not vulnerable to a claim. First, you should inform all staff of the fact that the practice is considering redundancies, and that they have a right to know that this is the situation.

You never know – some people may wish to voluntarily retire. This would deal with the situation in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

Second, you should call those affected by the redundancy situation to a meeting. This should be done in writing. The letter should set out the reasons the steps are being taken and should also include the criteria you assessed the individuals against as well as the affected individuals' scores based on those criteria. These criteria must be objectively verifiable (for instance, punctuality). In this letter it should also be made clear that the employee has the right to be accompanied to the meeting by a colleague or a recognised trade union representative.

The next stage

After a suitable period of time for the individuals to consider their scores (often three or four days) the meeting should be held. Make it clear that no decision has been taken and that you wish to consult with those who were affected from the earliest possible time. Ask them if they agree with the criteria you scored them on, and ask them if they agree with the scores.

Ensure that minutes are taken of the meeting. Allow the employee an opportunity to say their piece, and discuss with them the possibility of any suitable alternative employment. Inform them that you will need to go away and consider what they said, but that you will ensure they are told of the outcome as soon as possible.

After the meeting is over, get the minutes of the meeting typed up and send two copies each to the employees. Ask them to sign one copy if they agree with the contents and return it to you. They may keep the second copy for their own records.

Once you have made your decision on who will be made redundant, notify the employees in writing and offer them an appeal. Allow the employee to consider what grounds their appeal will be on, or alternatively re-hear the entire first meeting. Again, keep minutes and get them approved by the employee, and allow the employee to be accompanied.

A failure to follow the necessary steps could mean a court finds against you if an employee is dismissed in a redundancy situation. It is therefore important to take legal or other advice should you be unclear of the procedure that must be followed.

Michael Salter and Chris Bryden are barristers at 2 Gray's Inn Square Chambers: Legal points are provided for information and discussion only and are given without obligation. For specific legal advice consult your solicitor

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