The news that Debenhams has gone into administration means that 25,000 employees are at risk of losing their jobs if the retailer fails to find a buyer. Boots also announced recently it was making 350 workers redundant from its headquarters.
Research published in January from consultancy Lee Hecht Harrison Penna revealed that more than one in ten (11 per cent) UK workers think it is likely they will be offered redundancy in 2019.
Managing redundancies can be difficult for organisations, especially the process of choosing who will be made redundant. When an employer is selecting individuals for redundancy from a pool of employees, the criteria adopted and how those criteria are applied are crucial to both a fair redundancy procedure and, ultimately, achieving a fair dismissal.
A redundancy situation in which the employer chooses some employees to be made redundant over others who remain in post is more likely to result in bad feeling and lead to a higher risk of employment tribunal claims by disgruntled employees than one where all employees are made redundant. Employers therefore need to be able to defend the method of selection and show that they have used appropriate criteria, applied in a fair and consistent way.
To help employers who are planning redundancies, XpertHR provides a ‘how to’ guide on choosing and applying redundancy selection criteria. This says it is advisable for employers to use a redundancy selection matrix, setting out the criteria against which individual employees are scored. The completed matrix should then form the basis for individual consultations with selected employees, plus it can be used as evidence about how the selection process was conducted should there be a subsequent tribunal claim.
Organisations should be aware that selecting employees for redundancy for certain reasons, including those relating to health and safety and trade union membership or activities, will amount to automatic unfair dismissal. Adopting a proper set of selection criteria will therefore assist employers in countering any argument that an individual’s selection was for an automatically unfair reason.
XpertHR offers the following tips to employers:
Ensure that, as far as possible, selection criteria are objective and measurable and not based on subjective opinion; Consider what skills and experience are most relevant for the job and ensure that the criteria reflect the requirements of the job; When assessing performance, where possible base scores on quantifiable factors such as sales figures or on recent appraisals and performance reviews; Be careful when using absence levels as a criterion. A failure to discount absences related to, for example, disability or maternity is likely to be discriminatory; Do not rely on ‘last in, first out’ as the sole criterion for selection, as this is likely to be indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of age and potentially sex; Where possible, ensure that scores are moderated by more than one person to guard against bias; Make sure that employees identified as being at risk of redundancy are provided with their own score (as a minimum) and fully consulted on it prior to the final decision being made.
Employers need to be mindful that going through a redundancy process is an upsetting experience for employees. Making sure the process is carried out sensitively and objectively can go a long way towards minimising the distress.
Jo Stubbs is XpertHR's global head of content product strategy. She has over 20 years' experience in business-to-business publishing working specifically in the realm of HR practice and employment law information. Having worked at XpertHR in various roles since its inception in 2001, her current focus is on ensuring that XpertHR continues to meet the changing needs of its HR professional customers in respect of existing and potential content, products and features.