Redundancies are difficult times for all involved; employers may be facing a loss of their business whilst employees are faced with an uncertain future and a lack of job security. Consultation meetings are key to managing these turbulent times and help to maintain communication and fairness in this process.
Employees have a right to be collectively consulted when an employer proposes to make 20 or more employees redundant at one establishment over a period of 90 days or less. This consultation should take place between the employer and a representative for the employees; either a recognised trade union representative or an elected employee representative. Failure to collectively consult, unless there are special circumstances which make it not practicable to do so, can result in a protective award of 90 days’ pay being made to the employee by a tribunal.
Consultation should take place in good time, in advance of any determined dismissal, and at least 30 days before the first dismissal for 20-99 employees at one establishment over a 90-day period or less and 45 days for 100 or more employees.
Though there is no legal requirement to consult with smaller numbers of redundancies it is a good decision to do so. Redundancy is a fair reason for dismissal but not following a fair procedure can render the dismissal unfair and a lack of consultation meetings will raise the possibility of unfairness.
Employers should not predetermine the outcome of consultation meetings. The purpose of consultation is not only to discuss the reason for the redundancies with employees but to discuss alternatives to redundancies and provide a forum for employee suggestions on limiting the number or reducing the effect on employees at risk. Any suggestions made at consultations should be given full and serious consideration. If a suggestion would limit the number of redundancies, or remove the need for redundancies completely, and this is ignored, any dismissal on the grounds of redundancy is likely to be unfair. Consultations should also cover information about the selection process including discussing the objective selection criteria.
There is no set period of time required for consultations or a certain number of meetings to be held, but it is likely that a minimum of two meetings will allow employees to reflect on earlier discussions and make informed responses or suggestions at later meetings. Consultation meetings may be necessary at later stages of the process, before confirming redundancies, to discuss later stages of the procedure such as selection.