It's the law: Redundancy, part two: individual consultation

Charities must consider how to implement their redundancy programmes.

Any employee affected by redundancy has the right not to be unfairly dismissed, provided he or she has been with that employer for at least one year.

What does a charity have to do for an individual redundancy to qualify as a fair dismissal? In addition to the established principles of fairness that apply to all dismissals, new statutory dispute resolution procedures apply in situations where fewer than 20 people are being considered for redundancy. The new procedures say that employees must be invited to a hearing and should be allowed to appeal against the decision.

If more than 20 people are being considered for redundancy, it is also necessary for the organisation to consult representatives such as trade unions and to notify the Department of Trade and Industry.

The consultation process is often the hardest part for a charity to get right in a redundancy procedure. A charity's consultation obligations are different, depending on the number of people likely to be made redundant and the length of time before the redundancy takes effect.

In a small-scale redundancy situation, individual employees have the right to be properly and fairly consulted. The consultation process must include a discussion with the individual employees of the criteria used in any selection exercise, and must take into account those employees' comments about how they fit those criteria.

Of course, selection criteria must also be objective and non-discriminatory. This means that the traditional 'last in, first out' approach may cause employers headaches, because it is potentially discriminatory on the grounds of age.

Even when employees have been given notice of their redundancy, the organisation concerned should continue to look for alternative roles for them and put those options to them. Any search for alternative employment should not be limited to the particular organisation or division in which the employees work, but should extend to any company or organisation within the wider group, where the business falls within such a structure.

Employees with more than two years continuous employment will also be entitled to receive redundancy payments based on their age, earnings and length of service. However, employees will lose this right if they reject an unreasonable offer of suitable alternative employment.

- Emma Burrows isa partner and head of the employment group at Trowers & Hamlins solicitors.

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