Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shrunken economy, redundancies are likely to happen across the UK.
Under UK law if an employer is dismissing 20 or more people due to redundancy then they must consult with representatives of affected employees in addition to individually. There’s no prescribed legal structure regarding consultation when fewer than 20 employees are at risk of redundancy, the process just needs to be meaningful. A meaningful consultation would usually incorporate at least one meeting with employees.
With the current restrictions in place and employees who can work from home being encouraged to still do so, this can pose a problem when needing to do redundancy consultations with employees.
Can a redundancy consultation be done remotely?
There is nothing stopping employers consulting with employees while they are in lock down or working from home.
The rules on collective consultation and individual consultation, do not state that they have to be done face to face, just that it has to be done, therefore if necessary, Zoom, Teams, Skype etc. can be used to conduct these meetings remotely.
If your redundancy policy allows employees the right to be accompanied, you will still need to ensure that this is considered.
Whether using Zoom, Skype, Teams, conference call the details need to be made available to anyone who needs to join the call.
Remote electing of employee representatives
If you do not recognise a trade union or have an employee representative committee in place, then an election of employee representatives employee for the redundancy consultation will need to take place.
There will only need to be an election if the number of candidates is in excess of the number of representatives required. In this situation normally a ballot box and counting of votes would normally be used, however, due to the restrictions currently this is not possible.
Ballots can be held online, however, these have to remain anonymous so cannot be done via an email voting tool, or an email stating nomination.
Using an online tool such as survey monkey or similar would be the best way to conduct the ballot as these tools allow votes to be anonymous. A lot of companies use these tools to conduct their employee opinion surveys.
If this is not a viable option then as a last resort a member of the HR team could be appointed to receive employees’ individual votes and collate the information, however, this would not be an ideal way to do this, as all parties would have to be happy with the choice of person and the process being done this way.
Covid-19 a special circumstance
The coronavirus pandemic would not qualify under special circumstances for a consultation to not take place.
ACAS has specifically said that during the coronavirus outbreak employers must “still consult with employees. It is likely that they will need to do this remotely.
This means if employers fail to consult with provisionally selected employees then it is more than likely an unfair dismissal.
Things to consider when preparing for a remote redundancy consultation meeting
- Allow extra time for the meetings to take please this will allow for the possibility of some interruptions, being flexible is less stressful for everyone involved. When people are at home, they could have children around them, there could be a knock at the door, a phone could ring etc.
- Arrange a suitable time with your employee and be flexible to their personal circumstances, they could have a baby asleep and therefore they would prefer the meeting to take place then, so they do not get distracted.
- Prepare for the meeting, employees should know the purpose of the meetings and potential outcomes. Agree on a meeting protocol, this will help consultation meetings to run efficiently.
- How will any costs incurred by video conferencing or telephone calls be covered?
- Will employees have the relevant software available to participate in a video conference?
- Record the meeting, all consultation meetings should still have notes taken so there is a record of the meeting. However, using a zoom call or teams meeting etc. the meeting can be recorded saving someone having to take notes of the meeting.
If you are to record the meetings you need to consider the following:
- Getting consent – all parties have to agree to the meeting being recorded.
- Make the recording available – the meeting must be saved and given to all parties of the meeting.
- If there are future issues then you may be advised to have a transcript of the meeting for a tribunal, so you will need to type up the recording.
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