Unfair Redundancy Case
Why genuine communication is important
In a recent case before the Workplace Relations Commission there was a real redundancy situation on the face of it, but proper communication between the employer and employee did not take place. This resulted in a decision of unfair dismissal being made against the employer.
It was held that the employee was entitled to €40,000 in compensation. The fact that the employee had already received €27,518.00 in redundancy payment was factored in and the balance of €12,482 was ordered to be paid.
The claimant (employee) commenced employment on 01 October 1994 as a production operative. He was promoted to senior operator and later to the Production Line Lead in April 2011. The Line Lead roles were declared redundant in July 2019. The complainant’s employment was terminated on 13 September 2019. He claimed that he was unfairly selected for redundancy and so was unfairly dismissed.
The respondent (employer) was a service provider. It was informed by its client that they were encountering a reduction in business activity and reduced orders. This meant that the client had to realign business costs, as had the respondent. The Respondent decided that the solution to this was a management restructure to save costs and roles would be made redundant.
The respondent commenced a consultation process on 24 June 2019. The complainant was informed that the Line Lead roles were at risk of redundancy. The complainant was informed that alternatives to redundancy would be examined in depth.
Further consultation meetings took place on 25 June, 01, 11, 17 and 19 July 2019. The complainant was given the opportunity to be accompanied at the meetings, but he did not avail himself of this opportunity. There were two Line Lead positions in the organisation, one position held by the complainant and the other held by an employee who was seconded from another area. Both positions were in scope for redundancy. As part of the restructuring the seconded employee reverted to their permanent post of assembly coordinator. The complainant was the only permanent Line Lead within the organisation.
A number of meetings were held with the claimant. The complainant repeatedly asked what the selection criteria were but did not receive and answer, save that “the normal selection criteria does not apply”. The Complainant was informed in the meeting on 1st July 2019 that the two Production Line roles were the only positions in scope for redundancy and he was also reminded that the other employee who held the Production Line Lead position was currently in the role on secondment. At the meeting of 19th July 2019 it was confirmed that the Line Lead role was redundant and would be removed from the management structure. The Complainant asked why the Line Lead role was no longer required but he received no answer.
The complainant appealed against his dismissal for redundancy on the grounds that he was not selected for redundancy according to objective criteria. The HR Manager heard the appeal, by telephone, on 31 July 2019. The complainant only found out in the written outcome of the appeal that a job analysis was completed on all managerial roles in the business and the Company decided that Line Leads were the most suitable to be removed. The complainant was not consulted or involved in the job analysis process or presented with the result of that analysis of his post. The reason why the Line Lead roles were selected for redundancy was not explained to the complainant during the consultation process.It also was the case, that the Line Lead role held by the other employee who was seconded from another area was returned to their original position as part of the restructuring and therefore remained an employee of the Respondent.
The adjudicating officer stated "I do not accept that the respondent acted fairly and reasonably in this case. There was a genuine redundancy situation and two posts were made redundant. The two employees holding the Line Lead posts were treated differently. The reason why the Line Lead posts were selected was not communicated to the complainant until after his appeal hearing. The consultation process engaged in was not real or substantial and there was no genuine attempt to identify suitable alternative posts for the complainant. I find that the complainant was unfairly dismissed because he was unfairly selected for redundancy."
Lessons to learn:
For an employer, it is vital that a true consultation process takes place before a decision is made. As much information as possible should be shared with the employee. The employee's input must be sought and valued. Redundancy is a difficult process to carry out. Consider seeking professional advice. An independent extra eye reviewing the procedure can save a lot in the long term.
For an employee, even where genuine cost cutting measures are needed, you should take a look at the circumstance of your redundancy to see if you have been unfairly dismissed. It is best to get the advice of a professional, so that all aspects are considered.
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