In order for a redundancy process to lead to a fair dismissal, how long should a redundancy process take? Whilst the redundancy process must be meaningful and so cannot be too short and cut corners, you will want to maintain a productive working environment where staff are motivated and able to perform effectively. For this, you will need to ensure that the redundancy process is not overly protracted. So how can you get the right balance and keep staff feeling motivated and being productive at work? Below is a helpful guide.
How long does a redundancy process take?
There are a number of factors which might determine how long a redundancy process should be, but firstly, it will depend on the number of redundancies being made. If a Collective Consultation process is required, there are specific time limits for consultation. If 20-99 employees are affected, then consultation must begin at least 30 days before the first dismissal takes effect and where 100 or more employees are affected the consultation must begin at least 45 days before any dismissals take place. For more details on redundancy where collective consultation is required, please see our article, here.
These prescribed timescales are not required for an individual redundancy process, and so it is likely the process will be a little shorter, but this will depend on the individual circumstances surrounding the redundancy. More details on individual consultation and redundancies can be found here.
Without a statutory procedure to follow in the case of individual redundancy consultation, there are no set timescales for the redundancy process and so it is for the employer to use their discretion to determine whether the consultation, search for alternatives to redundancies and search for alternative roles has been sufficient in the circumstances. You will need to demonstrate that the process has been long enough to be meaningful and that there has been a genuine attempt by your business to avoid redundancy. The shorter the consultation period, the more likely an Employment Tribunal would find a redundancy consultation process to be lacking.
Whilst case law suggests that a consultation period of seven days is the minimum expected, a longer consultation period is advisable. If an affected employee is not consulted until late in the process, such as only a week before they are dismissed, it is questionable whether this could be avoided and whether genuine attempts to make suggestions or try those suggestions could have been made before a dismissal.
Even though you do not want the redundancy process to become protracted it is critical not to rush and make needless mistakes. There should be adequate notice of at least 2 working days for all meetings, so that employee have fair and reasonable notice and time to prepare and question all stages of the process. There will need to be sufficient pauses so that you are able to consider suggestions and provide thoughtful answers to questions about the process. You will need to evidence that you have made a meaningful search for suitable alternative employment and signposted employees at risk of redundancy to any alternatives.
Tips for managing morale in the workplace.
There is no escaping the fact that the redundancy process is stressful, both for those who are ‘at risk’ of redundancy, and for those who are working alongside ‘at risk’ staff, and so are affected by it.
The fact that some employees will be competing for the same role, in particular, can lead to tensions between employees. It is advisable, if you can, to keep separate employees who are likely to be in direct competition with each other, in order to ease these tensions and limit chances for focus to shift from working productively to blaming, scapegoating or sabotaging colleagues to boost their own chances of retention.
Those employees who are being retained may feel guilty that they are not ‘at risk’ while others are, or may feel insecure in their jobs and that they might be next to be dismissed. To remedy feelings of insecurity which are an unwelcome distraction for employees and your business, you should offer reassurance and make it clear to remaining employees that they are of value to the business. You could make employee’s feel valued by offering an ‘employee of the month award’, inexpensive teambuilding activities and social events and groups such as a book club or fitness group. If you make employee’s feel a real part of your business and communicate what it is that you need them to contribute moving forward including longer term goals and targets, a promotion path or training programme, this will make the employees who are not ‘at risk’ and you plan to retain, feel more of a permanent part of your future plans. For those employees who are remaining, you should look to the future and ensure that those employees are happy and not overloaded if fewer staff are expected to deal with a similar workload. If there are likely to be changes to the scope of a role, it is wise to consult to avoid poor morale amongst those retained staff.
Alternatively, to motivate those that are ‘at risk’ of redundancy you may want to set short-term goals and projects so that employees can see immediate results and follow tasks through to a conclusion before they may have to leave.
There should be clear and timely communication and as much information as possible provided to employees ‘at risk’ and affected by the redundancy, throughout the process. If you make frequent announcements, have an FAQ’s information sheet and a contact that questions can be directed to, so that employees are fully aware of what is happening, uncertainty is less likely to put employees on edge and make them less productive. If you are honest with employees, they will be able to trust you and provide honest feedback to you in 1 on 1’s or in questionnaires. If you do not gain the trust of your employees and the redundancy process lacks transparency, or there are closed door meetings leading to rumours rather than factual information about redundancies, this will undermine trust in the employment relationship, will create a negative atmosphere and could lead to staff not ‘at risk’ of redundancy, choosing to leave.
You may want to consider what other services you could offer employees, within your budget, such as external counselling for those staying or leaving, outplacement support to assist with CV writing or interview practice, especially if a long-term employee is leaving and would appreciate this extra support.
Leading from the front is important. If the managers and directors have good morale and are positive and encourage clear, honest communication and reward team working, this will encourage the same behaviour to become endemic within your business.
Unless there is a collective consultation process required, there will be no set time limits required for the redundancy process, but it must be long enough to demonstrate that a thorough redundancy process has been followed with meaningful consultation. To keep morale as high as possible amongst staff whether they are at risk of redundancy or not, there are a number of things you can do around communication being honest and open and setting goals appropriate to the individual’s position and looking at what other support your business can offer its employees during and just after their employment with your business. If you would like further advice on how to carry out an effective redundancy process and minimise the impact on your staff, and so on the productivity of your business, our employment solicitors can assist.