The process of making staff redundant needs careful handling, as was illustrated by a recent case in which a charity that failed to consult an IT support worker before terminating his contract only narrowly defeated his unfair dismissal claim (Colquhoun v Independent Living Support Limited).
The man worked for the charity for about seven years before a decision was taken to outsource its IT support services. The charity had been hit by funding cuts and informed him that he was being made redundant without any prior consultation or affording him a right of appeal. He was told that there were no other vacancies available to which a transfer could be considered.
The charity subsequently conceded before an Employment Tribunal (ET) that the man’s treatment had been procedurally unfair. However, it explained that it had been anxious to protect the confidentiality of emails to which the man had access. Owing to those concerns, a conscious decision had been taken not to give him any advance notice of redundancy and to immediately place him on garden leave.
In rejecting the man’s unfair dismissal complaint, the ET found that the decision to make him redundant was inevitable and that consultation, or an appeal process, would have been futile, making no difference to the outcome. The circumstances giving rise to the charity’s confidentiality concerns were sufficiently exceptional to excuse it from following fair procedures.
In dismissing the man’s challenge to that decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal noted that it could readily be inferred from the ET’s ruling that it had accepted that his redundancy was genuine, in that no other suitable employment was available for him at the material time. Although three new frontline staff had been recruited shortly before his dismissal, they had already been employed by the time he was made redundant and there had been no obligation on the charity to dismiss one or more of them in his favour.
If you are faced with the need to make staff redundant, contact us on 0207 822 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org before you take any action. Seeking advice at this stage in the process can head off problems further down the road.