Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Rights and wrongs of redundancy

MY last few articles focused on the issue of redundancy and this one will give some practical advice on what to consider if you are facing the prospect of redundancy or have recently been made redundant.

Redundancy is a form of dismissal but is not the same thing as being dismissed or getting “the sack”.

The key difference is that the job has disappeared or the employer has reduced its workforce. In choosing who to make redundant it is illegal for the employer to use selection criteria which discriminate against anyone because of their age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

You have certain rights in a redundancy situation and in the first instance you should check your contract of employment to see what your rights are as your contract may give you additional rights above the legal minimum. By law you are entitled to:

  • Notice of redundancy — the length of which will depend on how long you have been working for the employer
  • The offer of alternative employment if a suitable job is available
  • The right to try out the job before you decide whether or not to take it. If the terms and conditions vary in the alternative job you can work for a four week trial period
  • Be fairly and objectively selected for redundancy. Unfair selection for redundancy is a type of unfair dismissal
  • Statutory redundancy pay if you have worked for your employer for at least two years
  • Time off work for job hunting or to arrange training when facing redundancy if you have worked for your employer for at least two years.

If you have been made redundant and you haven’t got another job, you may be able to claim social security benefits or tax credits depending on your circumstances. Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is the main benefit for people of working age who are looking for another job. You may also be able to get help to pay your rent through housing benefit, help with paying your rates, free prescriptions and free school meals for your children.

If you are experiencing difficulty paying your mortgage you are unlikely to get any help at first. However you should contact your lender and inform them of your situation as there may be a number of options that you can explore. You may also get help to pay off part of your mortgage through the benefits system but this only covers mortgage interest payments and is means tested. From January 5 the qualifying period for help with mortgage interest payments for new working age claims was cut from 39 weeks to 13 weeks and the maximum size of the mortgage qualifying for help increased from £100,000 to £200,000.

If you are struggling to pay your bills or find yourself in a debt situation it is important that you speak to your lenders and explain why you are having problems. The sooner you do this the more options you will have for solving your financial problems.

There are some debts you need to pay first before others as the consequences for non-payment are much more serious. These are called priority debts, for example, mortgage debts as non-payment could result in the loss of your home.

Non-priority debts include unsecured loans, credit cards, store cards and catalogues. Free and confidential advice on how to manage your debts is available from your local Citizens Advice Bureaux.

A free fact sheet on the issue of redundancy is available from the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.co.uk/publications.

Redundancy is a complex issue and free advice and information can be sought from your local CAB.

Staff in local CAB can carry out a benefits check to determine what benefits you may be entitled to and also provide advice on how to manage any debts you may have as well as providing you with information on your rights on redundancy.

Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice

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