Consultation meetings can be upsetting for everyone concerned. Nobody wants to tell a colleague that their position may be at risk. Being prepared for the series of meetings will help make them at least a little bit easier for everyone.
- Redundancy – where to start
- Who to consult with
- Who to select for redundancy
- Alternatives to redundancy
- Consultation meetings
- Redundancy – scoring employees
- Concluding redundancy consultation
You should hold individual consultation meetings with every employee that is affected by the proposed redundancies. You may want to do these after the collective consultation has ended or, alternatively, individual consultations may run alongside the collective consultation.
The purpose of the consultation meetings?
The individual meetings give you the opportunity to meet with those employees who will potentially be made redundant. How you handle this first meeting will set the tone for the rest of the process. Get off to a bad start and it can be hard to recover.
What should the consultation involve?
The consultation should be meaningful. The aim of it should be to obtain the input and feedback of the employees who are affected.
The first individual meeting is really to give the employee more information about the procedure, how and why their role is affected and to explain. This should involve explaining the proposed changes within the company and giving them a chance to comment on the selection criteria (or, if you are consulting collectively, do this as part of the collective consultation).
You should listen carefully to any suggestions that the employee makes and if you agree with the suggestions, they have made then action what they have suggested.
Affected employees should be made aware of:
- Why you are making the redundancies,
- The number of redundancies
- The pool from which they are being drawn from
- The proposed selection criteria
- The process and timescales
You should ensure that you follow up this meeting in writing.
How long should the consultation be?
There is no definite duration of the consultation. It takes as long as it needs to – but remember, there is a minimum period for collective consultations.
Where only a handful of employees are at risk, you can allow for two weeks’ of consultation. The more employees that are involved, the longer it will take to fit in the meetings.
What if an affected employee refuses to attend the consultation meeting?
You can’t force an employee to engage in consultation with you. All you can do is make sure they’re kept fully informed and have the opportunity to engage, and that you have kept clear records of your attempts to consult with them.
The important thing is to ensure the employee can’t later say they were excluded from the process because they were not at work. If they choose not to engage, you are entitled to proceed with a redundancy.
What about employees who are absent from the workplace?
It is all too easy for an employer to get a redundancy exercise wrong – especially when someone is absent from the workplace because of shielding, furlough leave or ill.
Some employers disregard staff on maternity or family leave – or on long-term sick leave, or those currently furloughed. Some employers even choose not to consult with those on maternity leave or long-term sick leave. No matter how distressing it for everyone, it still has to be done. Getting it wrong will lead to a claim for unfair dismissal.
Employers must always include everyone on long-term absences. You may need to make special adjustments when scoring them for factors like performance and absence — especially if it is related to a disability and remember that special rules apply to women on maternity leave when it comes to being offered suitable alternative employment.
HMRC guidance says that employees on furlough leave can still be made redundant. They must still be included in the consultation process.
You can read about how to consult with staff who are absent here.