Who Will be Made Redundant?
The term redundancy is used to describe situations in which a company ceases operations entirely, meaning that all of the workers become redundant, as well as situations in which the company continues in business, reducing its workforce by a limited amount. These partial redundancies raise the obvious question of who among the company’s total workforce will become redundant. Sometimes the question resolves itself easily because an entire site – a factory or an office, for example - is being closed down. At other times, a difficult and sometimes emotionally fraught selection procedure must take place.
The employer must use some objectively-based selection criteria to decide who will be made redundant and who will not. It is not acceptable for the Human Resources Manager to just pick whoever she likes to keep their job, for example. There must some objective way of demonstrating why some people were made redundant and others were not. Otherwise, there is a basis for claims of unfair discrimination.
The law does not prescribe what the selection procedure must be. Very often, a “last in, first out” procedure is used. In other cases, the employer may develop some kind of scoring system, awarding points based on skills, number of years with the company or anything else which is reasonable.
Redundancy Selection Criteria
Typically, the employer begins the redundancy selection process by designating a “pool” of staff who may be made redundant. The redundancy selection criteria will be applied to this pool to determine who is made redundant and who is not.
The following gives an idea of what kind of criteria would be acceptable or unacceptable in a redundancy selection procedure :-
- Retaining the workers who are best at doing the job. – Acceptable as long as their superior work performance can be demonstrated through some metric or objective performance measure such as performance reviews.
- Selecting workers for redundancy based on their poor record of time-keeping or attendance. - Acceptable as long as records have been kept and the history can be demonstrated.
- Retaining those workers who have been with the company the longest. – Acceptable.
- Selecting workers for redundancy based on whether they have made complaints about management conduct, through asserting or discussing employee rights, for example. - Unacceptable.
- Selecting part-time workers for redundancy rather than full-time workers. - Usually now considered unacceptable, unless some special business case for it can be made. Based on the fact that women often account disproportionately for part-time workers, this can sometimes also give rise to successful sexual discrimination complaints.
Redundancy Selection – Your Right to Information and Appeal
If you are selected for redundancy, you should be told on what basis that selection was made during the individual consultation which the law requires your employer to offer you. This will be a personal meeting with the company managers, so you can ask about the selection procedure there.
Your employer should provide an opportunity for you to appeal against your selection for redundancy. Usually, the appeal will be made in front of a committee consisting of some members of the company management as well as (optionally) employee representatives.
Age Discrimination in Redundancy
In the past, employers often selected older workers for redundancy disproportionately. Since 2006, however, it has become illegal in Britain to discriminate against workers on the basis of age. Therefore, if this kind of selection procedure is used today – and it still is by some companies which haven’t got the message yet – this, too, can give rise to claims of unlawful discrimination.
Being Selected for Redundancy – Conclusion
Selecting part of a workforce for redundancy can be challenging and stressful for both employer and employees. For this reason, it is important that the selection procedure follow the rules laid down in law and be based on objective criteria.