Redundancies are a tough time for employees. Because of this, many will choose to have a representative help them.
This can make things more difficult for you, communicating through a third party. However, the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (as amended by various subsequent regulations (TURLCA)) requires you to inform and consult with redundancy representatives.
If you refuse to do so, it will be an unfair redundancy process and will be liable for unfair dismissal. Let’s explore who are redundancy representatives and how to comply with them.
Who are redundancy representatives?
Redundancy representatives are recognised Trade Union representatives (where a union is recognised) or representatives elected by the potentially 'affected employees'.
If you have a recognised trade union, you must consult with it for trade union representative redundancy.
Employment law and representatives
Employment law states you must consult with representatives of employees who redundancy may affect. Specifically, where it is proposed to dismiss at least 20 employees at any establishment within a period of 90 days or less.
The requirement to implement an employee representative in redundancy consultation may arise if there is a transfer of an undertaking (TUPE.) And the organisation that is receiving the transferring employees wishes to do so before the transfer.
If this is the case, the existing employer will need to agree to get involved.
Where fewer than 20 redundancies are proposed, the statute does not require you to follow this process. However, it is worth considering following the guidelines set out in law where you are contemplating multiple redundancies.
Consulting collectively for a couple of weeks will help show you followed a fair procedure.
Collective redundancy representatives
If none exists or there are any staff affected in respect regarding whom there is no recognised representative, you may consult with an appropriate 'standing body' such as employee representatives who have been elected to an information and consultation body or staff forum which has the mandate to deal with redundancy situations.
If no such body exists (a staff social committee, for example, would not have the mandate) an election would have to take place. When deciding if an existing body is 'appropriate' it will be important to consider:
- If it has the authority of the employees affected.
- Whether it has the powers to enable it to consult effectively.
You can only consult with employees directly if all the employees declined to elect a representative at a redundancy meeting.
How many employee representatives for redundancy?
It is down to you how many employee representatives there should be elected for collective consultation.
This should depend on the number of staff who are at risk from redundancy and/or the different classes of the staff affected.
For example, if the redundancies are taking place over a number of sites, it is advisable to have a representative from each site.
Redundancy consultation employee representative
An employee representative role in redundancy is to consult on behalf of affected employees to try and reach an outcome that works for all parties.
One of the first steps in the consultation process will be to make an announcement to the staff of your proposals. The purpose of this announcement will be to explain what you are proposing.
This will vary according to the circumstances, but it should cover those issues referred to in section 188 of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act.
You may make this announcement to employee representatives (if they are already in place) when you provide the letter that triggers the beginning of the consultation period. Otherwise, make the announcement to all affected employees face-to-face.
Also, provide a letter for employees to take away and consider. This letter should set out the next steps, such as:
- Election of employee representatives (where there are none.)
- Collective consultation meetings with representatives that are already in place.
Role of a representative at a redundancy meeting
A redundancy meeting representative will discuss the following with you at meetings:
- Whether there are any alternatives to redundancies.
- The proposed redundancy process.
- Whether volunteers for redundancy might be accepted.
- The proposed method of selection.
- Defining the proposed units of selection.
- Proposed selection criterion.
- Alternative employment opportunities.
- Proposed redundancy payments.
- Ways to mitigate the consequences of dismissal on the affected employee.
They will also feedback to staff your discussions, and then act as an intermediary between you and them.
You will have been communicating with all staff throughout the process. But, when you completed the collective consultation, you will need to confirm this in a letter. After this, move to the next stage of individual consultation, which involves inviting relevant employees to individual meetings.
Expert support on redundancy with Peninsula
Understanding the various redundancy laws can be confusing. And it is likely that all employers will have to deal with it at one point. So, it's all important information to have at hand.
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