The redundancy process

Rights and conditions
29 June 2017
When an institution proposes to make cuts in its workforce, it should consult with the recognised trades unions. Hopefully any local AMiE reps will be invited to these meetings.

The purpose of this collective consultation is to give union reps information about the process and then discuss ways of mitigating redundancies with a view to reaching agreement. An existing redundancy-handling procedure agreement can greatly help this process.

Local reps can ask for support from their regional officer or call the helpline for advice. A consultation checklist can also be downloaded. Where we have no local rep our regional officers will do their best to attend consultation meetings subject to existing commitments.

Voluntary redundancy

Methods will vary, but usually the next step is to let individuals know that they are at risk, normally by letter. At about the same time the employer might invite individuals to apply for voluntary redundancy (VR). The terms of a VR package should be attractive enough to encourage volunteers. VR is always at the employer's discretion, but applying for VR does not mean you are resigning – a voluntary redundancy is still a redundancy.

Selecting those to be made redundant

Institutions are supposed to use a fair process to select those they intend to make redundant. For managers, the common method is ask people to apply for posts in a new structure. Although there may be some red circling of who is eligible to apply for what, this is usually achieved through competitive interview, with the unsuccessful candidates facing potential redundancy. An alternative is for individuals to be slotted into suitable jobs, with those remaining left to face redundancy. Either way there should be measurable criteria used in the process.

Those who are unsuccessful in securing a job should be told why, be given the results of any scoring system used, and they should have the right to appeal.  

What if I choose not to apply for a new role?

Not applying for a job in any new structure is not a resignation. You remain an employee until you have been given notice and your notice period has expired. It is up to your employer to issue notice and if there is no role for you then any subsequent dismissal should be by reason of redundancy.

Alternative job offers

Anyone facing redundancy should be made aware of any suitable vacancies that exist elsewhere in the college. Indeed, if you have already been given notice your employer has a duty to offer any suitable alternative post(s). Sometimes, usually to save money, a college will expect you to take a role that you believe is unsuitable. There is no legal definition of suitable, but the more it varies from your own job in terms of one or more of pay, status, role, responsibility and/or location, the weaker the employer's argument. In such cases you should always seek help from your regional officer.

Individual consultation

A college should discuss many of the matters above, plus answer any questions you may have, at an individual consultation meeting with you. Sadly, many colleges believe that simply explaining what is to happen is sufficient. However, a consultation should allow you to express views and make counter suggestions. The aim is to have a meaningful dialogue to ensure that options have been properly explored. Consultation is an important step with which we can help.

Redundancy payments

If you have two years continuous employment in the sector then you are entitled to a redundancy payment. There is a statutory procedure based upon age and length of service. It is possible for an employer to enhance the terms of the statutory procedure but increasingly, employers are relying on the statutory amounts.

Usually any improvements on the statutory scheme will either be agreed during the collective consultation stage, or set out in an existing redundancy procedure agreement. However, it is sometimes possible for AMiE officers to secure individual improved deals for members.

Redundancy dismissals

Redundancy is a fair reason for dismissal, although any major unfairness in the selection process or a failure to consult can make the dismissal unfair. If you have been selected for redundancy you are entitled to receive notice in accordance with your contract. Unless you have a clause specifically allowing you to be paid in lieu of notice, a dismissal taking effect before your notice expires will be a breach of contract. In such cases any legal claim is usually avoided by the employer with a payment of compensation for the loss of notice.

Compromise agreements

Where a redundancy dismissal results in a payment that exceeds the statutory levels, or where an employee is dismissed in breach of contract (i.e. before notice expires) it is usual for the employer to want a compromise agreement. This is a legal document that sets out terms for ending employment, and is so-called because by signing the agreement, you compromise your rights to take a claim to an employment tribunal. All AMiE regional and national officers are certified and insured to provide the legal advice required when entering into a compromise agreement.