By Amy Drake, Solicitor – Healys Employment
Many employers are being faced with unprecedented challenges this year; it has changed the way that both employers and employees work and has highlighted the need to adapt to ever-changing economic demands.
There are however some practical steps that employers can take to ensure they stay current in such difficult times.
Revisiting Employment Contracts
Employers often review their employment contracts, policies and work-related documents to ensure that they are kept up to date. This year has highlighted the need to amend terms of employment agreements in order to give employers more flexibility.
If an employer needs to amend an employment contract, they can only do this if:
- There is a flexibly clause in the contract, which allows the change;
- The employee agrees to the change, or;
- The employee’s representative agrees to the change, for example a trade union.
We have seen an increased number of employment contracts that don’t include short-term working, layoff or flexibility clauses. This means that the employer has to get consent from the employee to agree changes to their contract. These changes might include salary reductions, reduced hours or being furloughed, which if not agreed by the employee, can lead to complications and dismissals.
A change can be agreed verbally or in writing. However, any change that relates to anything that must be legally in the employee’s contract of employment/written terms (such as pay or working hours) must be in writing; and the employer must notify the employee of the change in writing within a month of the change taking effect.
During the past few months many employers have taken a step back to examine their workforce and think about the future requirements of their business.
If redundancies are being considered it is important that employers get this right and follow the correct processes. In order to minimise the risk of legal claims there must be:
- A genuine redundant situation
- Sufficient warning
- Meaningful consultation with affected employees
- A fair selection process
- Consideration of alternative employment
- Proper consideration given to discrimination legislation
If you are proposing to make more than 20 employees at one establishment redundant within a period of 90 days, there must be consultations with all affected staff before the dismissals can take place. It is also worth noting that only employees with two or more years of continuous service are entitled to receive a redundancy payment.
Redundancy is a complex area of employment law and care should be taken that a fair procedure is followed in order to avoid any possible claims for unfair dismissal.
Healys Employment solicitors can advise and assist you in these matters. If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact Healys Employment team.