When someone is facing a redundancy situation they are often concerned with trying to get another job or seeking training in order to be able to apply for other jobs and getting time off for these activities is the focus of this article.
If an employee has been given notice of redundancy, they are entitled to reasonable time off with pay during working hours to look for another job or make arrangements for training for future employment.
An employee is entitled to time off with pay for job hunting or to arrange training when facing redundancy if they have worked for their employer for two years. The time off must be allowed during the period of notice.
There is no definition of how much time the employer has to give but it must be reasonable. What is reasonable will vary according to circumstances, for example, the difficulty of finding work in certain areas, the time and travel involved, and the range of jobs the employee is looking at.
An employee who is under notice of redundancy is entitled to time off to look for work, whether or not they have an appointment to attend a specific interview.
An employee is entitled to be paid their normal wage for the work they do during the redundancy notice period. If the employee is entitled to paid time off and they take time off to find work, then they are entitled to be paid their normal hourly rate up to a maximum amount. The maximum amount under the legislation is two fifths (40%) of the employee's normal weekly wage. This is the maximum amount that can be paid during the redundancy notice period while the employee is taking time off work. This means that provided an employee does not take off more than two fifths of their normal weekly working hours over the whole of the notice period, they will not lose any pay. For example, an employee works 40 hours per week. She has a four-week notice period. Two fifths of her weekly hours is 16 hours, so provided she does not take more than 16 hours off to look for work over the four week notice period, she will be paid her normal wage.
An employee may be entitled to more paid time off for job hunting or to arrange training under their contract of employment.
If the employer unreasonably refuses to allow an employee time off work, or refuses to pay for this time, or the employee considers that the employer is restricting the amount of time off unreasonably, the employee can complain to an Industrial Tribunal. A complaint should be made within three months of the date on which the time off should have been allowed however an Industrial Tribunal has discretion to accept complaints made after the three-month period if it considered it was not reasonably practicable for the employee to make the complaint earlier. The tribunal can order the employer to pay the employee the money or any balance of the money which is due.
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 or on the Department for Employment and Learning website at delni.gov.uk. Guidance on redundancy can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer.
Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice