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Redundancy Consultation - Good for Business, Bad for Employees

By Head of Core Services, General Law

As an Employment Lawyer I have dealt with countless redundancy cases in my career. Having seen the news that the consultation period is planned to be halved, I was shocked.

Whilst this change would obviously be helpful to employers, making the redundancy process less costly and time consuming, it's bad for employees.

The redundancy process, done properly, should and does take 90 days. The requirements of the legislation require an employer to consult through unions or elected representatives, and, those being consulted with then need to go back and get the views of the employees they are representing. This is a complex and time consuming process when so many employees are affected. 

The employer is obliged to consult about ways to avoid the redundancies, ways to reduce the number of redundancies and to reduce their impact which can involve consultation about anything from why a workplace has to close in the first place, about the selection criteria being applied, about payments on termination through to whether the employees will be allowed time off for interviews.

The reality is that many employers don't engage in the process properly, and often employee representatives aren't aware of their legal rights or obligations and so the outcome is pre-determined. So yes, in those circumstances, the process doesn't take them 90 days. But this shouldn’t justify reducing the period. 

The answer would be more information to both parties about how the process should be conducted effectively. In that regard, it will be interesting to see what the UK Government's proposed Code of Practice has to say. The Government's suggestion that this reduction will "allow employees to start their alternative job search sooner" is patently an attempt to sell this as favouring both parties which just doesn't stack up. The 90 day period gives employees a longer period to prepare themselves for redundancy.  

If the UK government plans go ahead then this could see more examples of employers carrying out sham consultation processes, allowing insufficient time for effective consultation to take place, and less protection for employees. 

Julie Morris is a Senior Employment Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in London.

Slater and Gordon are a leading employment law firm with 1,450 staff and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Derby, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Bristol, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.