Redundancy Consultation

By Andrew Willis
25 Sep 2020

One of the key stages of the redundancy process is consultation. But why is it important? And, what must you do during this period?

In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the redundancy consultation period. 

What is redundancy consultation?

It’s the part of the redundancy process where you sit down with employees to explain planned changes, get their feedback, and discuss alternative measures.

This isn’t the part of the process to make final decisions. You must always be open to your employees’ suggestions and try to implement them if possible.

You should always aim to be as open and contactable as possible during this time. It will be a period of heightened tension, and failure to communicate or actively refusing to listen will only make things worse.

When does redundancy consultation start?

This depends on the total number of redundancies. For example, consultation for redundancy for less than 20 people has no set rules for when to begin. Whereas 100 or more must begin at least 45 days before the first redundancy takes place.

You must include voluntary redundancies in that total, as well as employees moving to other roles. And, you only need to include employees on fixed-term contracts if you plan on making them redundant before their contract ends.

Individual redundancy consultation process vs collective

To reiterate, when your consultation begins depends on how many redundancies you are planning on making. The thresholds are as follows:

  • Less than 20 employees: no set rules on when to begin
  • 20 to 99 employees: must begin at least 30 days before first redundancy
  • 100 or more employees: must begin at least 45 days before first redundancy

Don’t think because you’re only making a couple of people redundant you can skip the consultation process. You still need to have one, it just doesn’t have a set start date.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are no rules that dictate how long a collective redundancy consultation should last. If it’s 100 or more employees, the minimum is 45 days, but it can last much longer than that if needed.

Aside from the length and complexity of the cases, the process remains largely the same. The main change is that if you are dealing with a collective redundancy, you have to involve employee representatives. But more on that later.

Redundancy consultation meeting checklist

What questions should you be asking in a consultation meeting?

Well, the main points you want to discuss are the following:

  • How to avoid or reduce redundancies
  • How to reduce the impact of redundancies across the organisation
  • How to restructure
  • The plan for the future
  • How employees have been selected for redundancy

Those are broad points which you can narrow down in individual meetings, but it serves as a good starting point for any redundancy consultation meeting.

REMEMBER: In this meeting you must listen, consider, and at attempt to implement employee suggestions if possible.  

UK employment law: redundancy consultation

The first and most important point is this:

Failure to consult with employees will almost certainly make the redundancies unfair, when consultation is legally required. An employment tribunal is likely to follow. Failure to meet the minimum requirement of days for the consultation period will also result in unfair dismissals.

There are other UK redundancy consultation rules you need to follow too. These include:

  • Notifying the Redundancy Payment Service (RPS) before consultation starts
  • Providing written information to representatives and/or staff
  • Responding to all requests for further information
  • Giving affected staff termination notices showing the agreed leaving date
  • Issuing redundancy notices only after the consultation period is complete

One important factor in collective redundancies is involving an employee representative in the redundancy consultation. A representative may be from a trade union, or an elected employee. You must consult with them during the consultation period.

. Although this isn’t required, open communication during this period is still encouraged and you should be willing to receive and respond to requests for further information.

If employees are represented by an elected individual, they must be appropriate for the role. For example, a rep from the sales department is not suitable for speaking on behalf of the canteen staff.

Can a redundancy consultation period be extended?

Yes. If the consultation becomes more complex, you can extend it so long as you keep your employees in the loop. There is no upper limit for how long a consultation can last, just a minimum. (See above)

Sickness during redundancy consultation

A common issue that occurs during the consultation process is an employee becoming sick. Sickness absence is an issue all employers face, but it’s significantly trickier during the consultation phase.

It’s possible to fairly make an employee redundant while they’re absent. However, to ensure it’s not classed as an unfair dismissal, you need to make the process fair.

Keep the employee up to date with the redundancy process. Provide them with the same written information as their colleagues. Just because they’re not at work, doesn’t mean they can’t play a part in the process. In some cases, it may even be possible to hold a meeting.

Consultation can still take place by phone, letter, or email, if needed. Virtual consultations are likely the norm these days due to the pandemic. And, in a collective redundancy scenario, you may be able to consult with their representative, and not involve the sick employee directly.

Ultimately, as long as you follow fair process, and do all you can to consult with the employee, you should be relatively safe from unfair dismissal. However, take extra care if the employee is absent as a result of a disability, or disability-related illness.

How much consultation for redundancy is needed?

The simple answer is this:

As much as is needed.

There’s no set number of meetings that should be held during a redundancy consultation. A minimum of two will be necessary to convey the appropriate information and have the adequate discussions. However, as with the length of the consultation period, there’s no upper limit.

With this in mind, don’t refuse requests for meetings or more information from employees just because you feel you’ve had enough. It’s vital you listen to your staff and take on board their suggestions.

Expert support

If you’re struggling with the redundancy process, or feel you may need to make redundancies soon and aren’t sure where to start, use our handy redundancy calculator or speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.