This is the 5th and final article in the HR Planning for 2021.
Collective Redundancy is different to making one or two roles redundant. It arises where, during any period of 30 consecutive days:
- There are 21-49 employees, and 5 or more employees will be made redundant
- There are 50-99 employees, and 10 or more employees will be made redundant
- There are 100-299 employees, and 10% or more will be made redundant
- There are 300 employees, and more, 30 or more employees will be made redundant
In a proposed collective redundancy situation, under the Protection of Employment Acts 1977 – 2014, there is a requirement to enter and engage in a consultation process with a view to getting agreement from the employee representatives. This legislation is separate from the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 – 2014. These consultations must take place at the earliest time possible and at least 30 days prior to giving notice of redundancies. The objective of the consultation process is to review and consider any and all alternatives to redundancies. For further information on the consultation process, click here.
The following information must also be furnished to the employee representatives, in writing:
- The reason for the redundancies
- The number and descriptions of the employees affected
- The number and descriptions of employees normally employed
- The period in which the redundancies will happen
- The criteria for selection of employees for redundancy
- The method of calculating any redundancy payment
‘Employees’ Representatives’ are defined as:
- A trade union, staff association or excepted body with which it has been the practice of the employer to conduct collective bargaining negotiations, or
- In the absence of such a trade union, staff association or excepted body, a person or persons chosen (under an arrangement put in place by the employer) by such employees from amongst their number to represent them in negotiations with the employer.
The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006, also makes it obligatory for employers to consult with employees on substantial changes in the workplace, including proposals for collective redundancies. The Act applies to employers of 50 people or more.
The Minister for Social Protection must also be informed, in writing, of the proposed redundancies at least 30 days before the occurrence of the first redundancy.
Notification to the Minister should be sent by registered post and it should include the following:
- Name/address of the employer, stating whether employer is a company, partnership or sole trader. Address of the establishment where the collective redundancies are proposed.
- Total number of persons normally employed there.
- The number/categories of employees whom it is proposed to make redundant.
- The period over which it is proposed to implement the collective redundancies.
- The reasons for the proposed collective redundancies.
- Names/addresses of the trade unions/staff associations representing employees affected by the proposed redundancies.
- Details of the consultations with each trade union (commencement date; progress made etc.)
There are already issues arising from this lack of notification in relation to redundancies and business closures due to Covid-19.
MANAGING EMPLOYEE’S REACTIONS TO A REDUNDNACY
The key to navigating the redundancy and consultation process with employees is open and effective communication.
- Be open and honest and transparent
- Communicate at the earliest opportunity
- Encourage employees to participate in the process.
- Be consistent with the information you provide
- Use a fair and objective selection process.
- Make sure managers are visible and available
Regardless of how well you communicate, you may experience some of the following:
- Employees have been known to try to get an Injunction against a redundancy. That’s the absolute extreme of somebody who refuses to engage.
- Some go out on work related stress as soon as they hear their job is at risk.
If this occurs, make sure they are offered any supports available to them, e.g. and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or a counselling session. If this is not available to employees, then point them to the various free supports e.g. metal health Ireland.ie.
Use Occupational Health to determine if an employee is well enough to engage in the process. Send them to a company doctor or a doctor of your choice to have them assessed to determine that they are well enough to engage in the process.
If a person is certified fit to engage in consultation, then it may be a good idea to allow someone to come with them, as a support. This could be a friend, a family member or a work colleague or a trade union representative.
If an employee refuses to meet, follow up with a call and then in writing and give more time. It’s important to show reasonableness and fairness and make every effort that you can to get them to engage.
If after all that, you still can’t get the employee to engage, then you can move the process on, but at least you have documented that you have sent them to a doctor, you have invited them in and offered them to have somebody with them, but they didn’t come. You then called them, wrote to them, invited them in again but they still didn’t come. If there are any issues later, you have documents that you can produce to show what you did. You need to follow your own policies on redundancy in this regard.
- An employee may indicate that the proposed redundancy seems like a ‘fait acccompli’. If this happens, assure them it is not and invite them to make suggestions for alternative options.
Be up front and explain how you have looked at all the alternatives and that you don’t see any other roles or cost savings that would mitigate the redundancy.
Always slow the process down rather than speed it up. Give employees a reasonable amount of time to reflect and come up with suggestions e.g. a few days. If someone asks for an extra few days, give it. It’s important that employees feel heard. It is less likely to take an unfair dismissal claim if they feel heard and treated fairly. It is Less likely to result in claims of discrimination or unfair selection for redundancy.
Thank you for reading and engaging with me here. If this is a current issue for you or you would like some more information or support, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.