Question: I have been advised that I am being made redundant by my employer. I am employed by a large engineering company and they are moving the business to China. What are my rights?
Louise McAloon, Associate Partner at Worthingtons Solicitors, Belfast. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Answer: Whilst the decision and reasons for the relocation of a business or part of a business are ultimately a matter for your employer, the company must consult with any affected employees where it is proposing to make redundancies as a result of that relocation.
Where an employer is proposing to make redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a 90-day period, it must conduct meaningful consultation in good time with a recognised trade union or employee representatives with a view to reaching agreement in relation to ways to avoid redundancies, the reasons for redundancies, how to keep the number of dismissals to a minimum and how to limit the effects on those dismissed (e.g by offering re-training).
This collective consultation obligation extends not only to those employees who are at risk of redundancy but also to those whose jobs may otherwise be affected by the redundancy exercise.
Legal debate continues as to what constitutes consulting in "good time" and the latest case law suggests that where there is a gap between the date a strategic decision is made to close or re-locate a business and the date consultation begins, it will be for an industrial tribunal to decide whether the consultation did indeed begin in good time in the particular circumstances of the case.
Failure to properly consult with employees may result in a tribunal making a 'protective award' of up to 90 days' pay for each affected employee; a potentially significant liability for any employer.
If you are selected for redundancy, you have the statutory right to receive a minimum period of notice of the termination of your employment which is one week for every complete year of service, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
Employees selected for redundancy with two or more complete years of service also have the right to receive a redundancy payment which is based upon their gross weekly wage, age and length of service.
A free online redundancy calculator is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Enhanced notice and redundancy payment entitlements may be provided for under an employee's contract of employment.
If you believe that you have been unfairly selected for redundancy, that you have not been afforded a fair redundancy process or have not received the correct notice or redundancy payment entitlements, you should exercise your right to appeal within the employer's internal redundancy procedure.
If an appeal is unsuccessful, employees also have the right to pursue a complaint to an industrial tribunal.
The time limit for any unfair dismissal claim is only three months from the effective date of termination of employment and, as such, legal advice as to the merits of any claim should be sought at the earliest opportunity.