Sadly, redundancies are inevitable during these challenging times. Many businesses are being forced to make staff redundant due to the downturn in business and ongoing impact of the pandemic. This is made all the more difficult when many employers are managing a remote workforce. With government advice currently requiring staff to work from home, how do you manage the redundancy process remotely?

 Understand the rules

Despite the current circumstances, the law around redundancy has not changed. This means that consultation is still an important part of the process. There is also nothing to suggest that holding virtual meetings for this purpose is against the law.

  • Less than two years’ service: The law states that any employees with less than two years’ service do not have to be included in a redundancy selection process. This means that an employer can dismiss them without reason if they choose to. These employees are also not able to claim unfair dismissal. (NB: Employees with less than two years’ service, can bring other claims, such as discrimination, and therefore, please always take further advice before automatically relying on this approach.)
  • For employees with more than two years’ service, you are required to follow the redundancy consultation process. You should refer back to their contracts to check their terms and be aware of notice periods.

For full details of the formal redundancy process read our guide here. The most important part to remember about the whole process is to consult the employee at every stage. Communication is key to protecting your employee and the business.

How to hold consultation meetings

In a formal process, employees would be invited to meet for a consultation with reasonable notice. You may want to allow them to be accompanied, although this is not a requirement for a redundancy consultation meeting.. These meetings can now take place as phone or video calls which is also acceptable. It’s during this stage that you would formally review and discuss the proposed redundancies and rationale, steps which have already been taken to mitigate the need for redundancies and offer provisional redundancy calculations.

In some instances, it may be possible to meet face to face, adhering to social distancing rules.

How to communicate with staff

Whatever form the meeting takes, it is essential that employees are consulted meaningfully. This needs to involve a two-way dialogue where you can both exchange views and information. Ultimately the aim of these consultation meetings is to explore potential ways to avoid redundancy (which would now include consideration of the Job Support Scheme), however they also need to cover off the selection process and the next steps.

Above all, remember to be sensitive and authentic. Redundancy can be life-changing for many, particularly in the current climate. The delivery of this information needs to be done with respect and consideration.

What not to do

  • Never ever propose or confirm redundancies on email, text or via social media. Face to face communication (or at the very least via telephone) is the only way to handle redundancy situation delicately and meaningfully for all parties.
  • Don’t use the consultation as a way to inform the employee that a decision has already been made. It needs to be a discussion to explore other options.
  • Start the redundancy process without consulting employee contracts and understanding their legal rights.
  • Dismiss an employee with less than 2 years continuous service without following a process without a full prior evaluation of other legal rights they may have.

For help with redundancy please get in touch with our team or read our Coronavirus and redundancy blog