Is it legal to make redundancies remotely?

James Potts - Legal Services Director

November 11 2020

The short answer is yes. There’s nothing in the law that says you can’t make redundancies remotely. However, it does add extra risk to an already complicated process.

Here’s what you need to know to make safe, legal redundancies over the phone and online.

Follow a watertight redundancy process

For the most part, whether your people are working from home or not, your redundancy process will stay the same.

You still need to have a legitimate reason to make a role redundant, and you still need to look at all options to avoid the redundancy.  

You also need to consult with your employees who are at risk of redundancy. If you don’t, then the redundancy will almost definitely be unfair, and an employee may be able to make a claim against you at a tribunal.

There’s no legal requirement to consult employees face-to-face, so you can do this over the phone. Or, better still, hold a video call. But whatever you do…

Don’t make redundancies by email

Redundancy consultations must be ‘meaningful’. This means you need to take your employees’ input seriously and consider their thoughts and ideas.

A video call is your best chance for this. You and your employee will be able to communicate better with each other through eye contact, body language, hand gestures and more. If you can’t use video, a phone call is your next best option.

But while you can use email to communicate with staff throughout the process, an email consultation alone is not enough. Because email probably won’t count as ‘meaningful communication’.

And remember, if you’re making 20 or more redundancies within a 90-day period, you need to follow ‘collective consultation’ rules.

That may mean consulting with an elected employee representative or a trade union representative. When making between 20 and 99 roles redundant, the minimum consultation period is 30 days. When the number is 100 or more, the minimum consultation period is 45 days.

Again, while information can be shared by email, it’s best to arrange at least one phone or video call as part of the process.

Follow the right procedures during your call

Give your employee a chance to prepare and let them suggest an appropriate time for the call.

The law says you can’t finalise your redundancy plans before you consult with your employees. So, during your meeting, you’ll need to discuss a range of issues, such as:

  • How many people you plan to make redundant.
  • Ways to avoid job losses.
  • The reasons people might be selected for redundancies.
  • The business’s plans for the future.

You’ll need to respond either during or after the meeting to any suggestions that your employee makes, giving the reasons for your decision.

It’s worth documenting your responses, too, in case you ever need evidence at a tribunal.

Send your employees notice of their redundancy

It’s best to call your employee to say that you’re making them redundant before you give them their notice. 

Then, you need to send them a redundancy letter that confirms your decision and gives notice that their employment is ending.

Your letter needs to include:

  • Their last date at work.
  • Whether you need them to work their notice.
  • Any paid time off they have left.
  • How much redundancy pay they get.
  • Any other pay (like holiday pay) you owe them.
  • How they can appeal against the decision.

It’s also important to notify staff when they are no longer at risk of redundancy. While you can do this by email, a phone or video call is better.

Get expert support

Redundancy is a stressful process at the best of times. That’s why Peninsula clients enjoy access to unlimited HR support to help you stay on the right side of the law.

But we know that managing staff is about more than following legislation. That’s why many Peninsula clients also benefit from our 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Your EAP gives you and your staff access to confidential wellbeing support services to help you overcome your life challenges, including managing the impact of redundancy.

For further complimentary advice on flexible working policies from an expert, call us any time day or night on 0800 917 0771 or request a callback here.

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