What Are Your Redundancy Rights?
Covid-19 and Redundancy
Times are bleak, and many good and hard workers are being made redundant by their employers due to the tremendous impact of COVID 19 on many business sectors. This was entirely unpredictable, and redundancy can come as a shock, especially if you have never experienced redundancy before. If you find yourself in this position or feel that redundancy is on the horizon for you, it is definitely worth knowing your rights and your employers obligations. We are just going to quickly run through the key need to know information about your redundancy rights, no complicated jargon, a straightforward guide to what you’re rightfully owed and how to get it.
Firstly, if you are being made redundant due to COVID 19, your employer maybe able to keep hiring you and pay you 80% of your wages, with the government paying the remaining 20%. This scheme aims to keep job retention rates high despite the pandemic, and it is worth making sure your employer is aware of this option. However, this is obviously not always possible, and some employers will really have no choice but to let you go as even that 80% is money they cannot afford to lose. It is a tough reality, but if you are in this position, try not to blame yourself, and this experience may open the door to incredible opportunities in the future.
If you are selected for redundancy, there must be a fair and logical reason given for your selection. One of the most common methods of selection is the ‘last in, first out’ approach, where the most recent hire is the first to go. However, it must not be done from an ageist approach, dispatching only young employees based on their age would classify as discrimination. Other forms of selection classed as fair are basing the decision on staff markings, skills, qualifications, experience, past disciplinary records or asking for self selection within the company (essentially asking for volunteers). Once again, make sure that these fair options are not warped into being ageist. For example, your employer cannot only offer voluntary redundancy to age groups eligible for early retirement, however, early retirement packages can be offered to willing volunteers of that age range.
There are many other laws now in place to stop redundancy due to factors such as sexuality, race, gender, pregnancy, disability or religion. It’s 2021, so these are pretty obvious! However there are other grounds of discrimination which are maybe less instantaneously thought of. Being made redundant on the grounds of being a part time employee, having taken industrial action in the past (lasting less than 12 weeks), being or not being a trade union member or whistleblowing issues about your employer’s wrongdoings are all other lesser-known invalid reasons to make someone redundant. If you’re reading this and have realised you may have been unfairly selected for redundancy, you are can write to your employer stating your reasons for believing so and maybe able to take action by making a claim to an employment tribunal on grounds of unfair dismissal.
However, there is an occasion where redundancy can be made without having to follow a selection process, for example, if your job at the company no longer exists. This can be for multiple reasons, from your sector of the wider company being closed to streamline the business (very common during COVID), you’re the only employee in your part of the organisation, or the whole company is closing down all together. This is all very doom and gloom, but there is hope; if the business hasn’t entirely shut down, it is always worth enquiring if there is a different role within a different sector of the company which you could fill.
Normally, when you are made redundant you are entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been at your workplace for at least two years. The amount that you are awarded depends on your age and the number of years you were working at the organisation for. If you’re interested in figuring out exactly how much redundancy pay you are owed, it is worth going to the government redundancy site where they help you to calculator through a generator exactly what you should be expecting. If you have been on furlough before being made redundant and are worried that you will be paid less, don’t fret, furlough does not apply to your redundancy pay and will be calculated based on your regular salary before this whole mess even happened. Redundancy pay under £30,000 is not taxable.
When you are made redundant, you are entitled to be given notice about it, it’s not the sort of thing you would like to be a surprise. If you have been with your place of work for a month to 2 years, you are entitled to a week’s notice, from 2-12 years it is a week per year of employment, and anything over 12 years you are entitled to 12 weeks. Some employees are kind enough to give more than the statutory minimum, but it is illegal to give you less notice than you are owed. During your notice period you are entitled to notice pay based on the average you earned in the 12 weeks running up to your notice (again, this is not changed by COVID 19 furlough changes to pay). It is worth knowing, that if ‘payment in lieu of notice’ is in your contract, your employer can end your employment without notice, but will pay you instead of providing the notice. Although you’re entitled to the basic pay you would’ve received throughout your notice period, your employer may offer some kind contributions such as a pension payments or private health care if they were already in your previous contract.
As part of the redundancy process, you are entitled to a consultation with your employer to discuss your dismissal and if there are any alternative options available. You can make a claim to the employment tribunal if you are not consulted properly on the matter or are denied any consultation at all. You deserve to fully understand the predicament you have been put in and are owed an explanation.
Many companies are having to serious downscale due to the pandemic, and so collective redundancies are on the rise. The consultation process for a collective cut differs slightly from an individual dismissal. When there are over 19 dismissals taking place, then the rules on collective redundancy must be implemented. If 20 or more employees find themselves being made redundant at the same time, the consultation should take place between the employer and either a trade union representative (if you are part of a trade union), or an elected employee representative. If you’re an employee within this collective, you have the choice of standing to be representative of the group or voting for other representatives.
During the redundancy consultation, whether it be between one individual, or a representative on behalf of 100, the consultation must cover the possible ways to avoid/minimise redundancies, the reason behind them, and the possibly of alternatives such as retraining employees to rehabilitate into other areas of the company. The consultation must take place a considerable time before the dismissals occur, in order to provide time to come up with solutions or give adequate notice. For 20 to 99 redundancies, this must be at least 30 days before the dismissals begin, and 100 or more, it must be at least 45 days before.
Suitable Alternative Employment
When possible, our employer may be able to offer you alternative employment within the company, or another business owned by the same people. This obviously depends on the skills you currently have and if they would be applicable to an alternative position, for example, if you were trained and experience in a managerial role, and then offered an entry level position in a completely different location for half the hours, that would be an unfair offer. If there is another position at the same level and pay requiring the same skills, and your employer doesn’t raise the option of you potentially taking that position, you could have grounds to claim unfair dismissal.
Equally, if you refuse a suitable alternative employment offer, you may run into some trouble. If the offer was reasonable but you still refuse, you are at risk of losing your statutory redundancy pay. However, if you feel that the offer was in fact unreasonable, you are perfectly entitled to claim an employment tribunal.
If you do decide to take up the offer of an alternative position, you are entitled to a 4 week trial period, which can be further extended if you’re in need of training (although this must be agreed in writing before you start). This will give you a fair chance to see if you are suited to the role and if it is an offer you would like to take up; this will not affect your employment rights (eg. Entitlement to redundancy pay) if you decide the job is not suited to you. However, you must make sure that you give notice within the first 4 weeks of the trial, or your redundancy pay right will be revoked.
Hunting for job can feel like a job in itself! That’s why if you’ve been employed for 2 years, you’re allowed to take a reasonable amount of time off to apply for jobs or arrange training to help you find a new job. The amount of time you will be allocated depends on your circumstance, but no matter how much time you take off to do this, the maximum your employer is entitled to pay you is 40% of a week’s pay.
In conclusion, your redundancy rights may seem like a bit of a minefield to navigate, but it is always worth knowing what exactly you’re entitled to so you can claim what you are rightfully owed. When it comes to legal rights and obligations, it is best advised to look on the government website for guidance, and if you are thinking of taking any action against your employer, it is in your best interest to consult with a specialist solicitor about the issue to get professional guidance.