Belfast Telegraph

Employers must be fair when it comes to redundancy

Joanna White, Associate at Arthur Cox Solicitors, discusses how to avoid unfair dismissal and redundancy related claims.

There is a perception that tribunal claims are on the rise, however, Northern Irish tribunal statistics show a decrease in claims registered.

In Great Britain,like Northern Ireland, non-discrimination claims are highest - for example, unfair dismissal and unauthorised deduction from wages claims.

This is important for two reasons. First, they illustrate the main areas that are affecting businesses in the economic climate and it is no surprise that these claims relate to cutting costs, reducing the size of the workforce and making redundancies.

Second, they show that some employers are not following robust redundancy and dismissal procedures when reducing their workforce, leading to tribunal claims being lodged by former employees.

All employers must follow the statutory minimum three-step dismissal procedure before dismissing an employee because otherwise, the dismissal may be automatically unfair. Failure to follow this procedure can also lead to any compensation awarded to an employee by a tribunal being uplifted or reduced by 50%.

Initially the employee should be invited in writing to a meeting, notifying him or her of the reasons for the meeting. They should then be allowed a reasonable period of time to consider their response to the information provided to them in the letter before the meeting.

At this point the employee has the right to be accompanied at the meeting and afterwards the employee should be notified of the decision taken and his or her right to appeal the decision.

If the employee wishes to appeal, then an appeal meeting should be held, at which the employee has the right to be accompanied and he or she should be informed of the final decision. This procedure is only a minimum. For example, in cases of redundancy, employers should also carefully consider which employees are at risk of redundancy, carry out an information and consultation process with these employees and adopt a fair basis on which to select for redundancy. In addition they should consider suitable alternative employment for employees at risk of redundancy.

Following this approach helps avoid unfair dismissals.

Joanna White is presenting at a Legal-Island seminar on redundancy on February 22 at the Legal-Island Training Centre in Antrim. Information is available at www.legal-island.com

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