Redundancy is normally bad news and may come out of the blue. If you’ve been selected for redundancy, how do you know if you’ve been chosen fairly and what are you entitled to by way of a redundancy package? Many of the rules around redundancy aren’t clear but you may have more rights than you think.
What are your rights if you’re made redundant?
While there are clear rules about not making someone redundant on the grounds of discrimination, employers still have a fair amount of flexibility about who they select. You cannot make someone redundant on the grounds of:
- Gender, marital status, pregnancy or maternity, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion or belief, age, trade union membership, health and safety activities or working patterns (such as working part time or full time). Whistleblowers also have protection from redundancy.
SAVVY TIP: If your employer does this it automatically becomes an unfair dismissal. There’s information about unfair dismissal on the Gov.uk website. In this case you may be entitled to compensation of up to £80,541 (from April 6th 2017) if you’ve been employed for a year or more.
- There’s extra protection while you’re on maternity leave. You can be made redundant while you’re on maternity leave but not for reasons linked with your pregnancy or maternity. You also have the right to be offered a suitable alternative job within the company if there’s one available.
SAVVY TIP: As soon as you come back from maternity leave you lose this additional protection relating to an alternative role. There’s more information about maternity pay and leave on the Gov.uk website.
Choosing who should be made redundant
Employers should draw up a list of the criteria by which they’ll be selecting people who are to be made redundant.
- This can include skills, performance, disciplinary record, capability. The problem is that this list leaves quite a lot of room for manoeuvre. If your employer is restructuring the business they may be keen to look at the skills that would be relevant in the future, not just those that apply now.
SAVVY TIP: Some employers use external consultants to assess the jobs/skills they’ll need in the future. If that’s the case it should still be your line manager who rates your ability to do the job (not someone who doesn’t know your skills and capability).
- Get all the information you can. Ask about the selection criteria, your scores and how they compare with those of your colleagues says Bettina Bender, partner with specialist employment law firm CM Murray: “You won’t be able to see other people’s individual scores but you can ask for anonymised scores.”
SAVVY TIP: If you and your colleagues agree to share your scores your employer should do that. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you took a case to tribunal an employment lawyer would want to see all the scores and an employer would have to provide it.
- Engage with your employer and ask questions. You may feel very angry, worried and hurt about what’s happening, but make sure you use the opportunity to find out more, says Fiona Martin of Martin Searle solicitors. “Ask about the rationale for the redundancy and if there’s a restructuring, what it will look like and what the criteria will be.
SAVVY TIP: If the selection criteria included sales targets, for example, make sure the comparison is fair. If you’ve been away on maternity leave for part of the year your target should be adjusted. You don’t have to take the word of your employer – you can ask for evidence of this.
- Find out about the restructuring. If your employer is restructuring their business it’s worth getting information about who will do your work, says Fiona Martin of Martin Searle solicitors. “Try and establish whether it’s a real restructuring or the creation of new job titles where the intention is to give your job to someone else.
SAVVY TIP: Bear in mind that if you do take your case to tribunal the tribunal won’t tell your employer how to run their business (i.e. if the restructuring is necessary etc).
If you don’t think your employer is being fair in the way he/she is making people redundant you can appeal. Some lawyers say this is only successful if you can show your employer has discriminated against you.
SAVVY TIP: A case that went to the House of Lords called Polkey v AE Dayton Services, the so-called ‘Polkey principle’ was established. It means that if an employer didn’t carry out the redundancy fairly but the end result would have been the same if he/she had, the compensation awarded can be drastically reduced.
Useful links: The law firm Martin Searle has a range of factsheets about redundancy and other employment law matters. The law firm CM Murray has a guide to redundancy called the ‘little book of redundancy’, which you can download (it’s on the right hand menu bar of the home page).
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