A recent Employment Tribunal case shows the risks of carrying out redundancies without the required knowledge and experience.
In Cassidy v Quest Vitamins Ltd, the claimant was dismissed on the basis of redundancy. She claimed that the redundancy process was unfair, stating amongst other things that the decision to dismiss her had been made before the consultation process and no alternative employment had been considered.
A downturn in business resulted in a number of redundancies, including of the only HR Officer. Subsequently, the company accountant took on HR responsibilities, even though she had little understanding of HR and Employment Law and no experience in this area.
The Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was unfair for a number of reasons but highlighted that ‘(the accountant) was not a qualified HR professional; she was an accountant who had stepped into the breach, had little knowledge of HR matters and redundancy…. she was confused by the process and relied heavily on external advice’.
Get redundancies right!
This case stresses the importance of ensuring that you carry out fair and legally compliant procedures.
As we have seen, redundancy is an area fraught with difficulty. In general, a fair redundancy will consist of warning employees of the risk of redundancies, creating and applying fair and non-discriminatory scoring criteria, consulting with employees and thinking through suitable alternative employment options. In large scale redundancies, you also need to adhere to collective consultation duties. A failure to do all the necessary steps is likely to render the process unfair.
When dealing with redundancy, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. In this case, it seems the accountant did rely on external advice, but it is extremely important to point that employers need to seek the right advice from a legally qualified expert.
There are numerous providers out there. Some will offer you a low cost or free advice line which provides a basic level of service. Others will provide you templates. Some will tell you the law, but not how to apply it to your specific workplace challenge.
But what you really need is a named, legally qualified Employment Law Adviser who will learn about your business and the way you like to work. They can draft your Contracts of Employment, Employee Handbook, letters and other documents, tailored to your specific sector and organisation and aligned to your best interests. They are can also answer all your queries and give your comprehensive step by step advice.
This is what we offer at Ellis Whittam with our fixed fee HR and Employment Law service. To discuss how we can support you, contact us for a no obligation discussion.