Redundancy is a harsh word and can have terrible consequences for those who are affected. Being told that your job is no longer necessary, or suffering through the process before the axe falls on you and your colleagues, might be a horrific experience.
Imagine, for example, the atmosphere in the offices of Edinburgh City Council as 20,000 workers were told they could apply for redundancy, in a bid to save £141m.
The payoff can seem like a boon at the time, but soon diminishes in the account of an unemployed jobseeker through mortgage payments and bills. However, the redundant worker has rights – and plenty of them. No boss can stroll into a job and just get rid of whole departments with no due diligence.
As an employee facing redundancy you might be eligible for certain rights, including redundancy pay, a period of notice depending on the length of time you worked at the company, and a consultation with your employer.
The latter, when several members of the same workforce are fighting for a limited number of roles, can be a stressful process. The selection must be conducted fairly, and based on what has happened at work, rather than any form of discrimination.
So your performance levels, skillset and length of service might each be factors in the decision, although there may be no selection process whatsoever if the roles have been dissolved.
If you do feel the process is flawed and that you have been discriminated against, perhaps based on gender or race, then you may be able to take the employer to an employment tribunal. The other scenario is if you decide that you actively wish to leave voluntarily.
Redundancy pay will depend on your current salary and the length of time you have worked for the company, but you are guaranteed a minimum statutory pay. That equates to half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22, one week for each year between 22 and 41, and 1.5 week’s pay for full years when older than 41. Find out how much you should be entitled to in this Money Advice Service calculator. Notice periods are also based on the period of time you have spent with the company, although you may be able to receive payment in lieu of notice.
It should be stated that selecting someone for redundancy based on age (and hence their cheaper payoff) is discrimination. Certain roles, and modes of leaving (dismissal for misconduct, etc) are not eligible for statutory redundancy.
You’re also entitled to a consultation, which involves discussion with your employer about the reason for redundancy and the possibility of being moved into another role within the company. A consultancy period must start at least 30 days before any dismissals are made, or longer if a company is shedding 100 or more roles.
Most employers will try to be at least somewhat sympathetic. They may try to help you find another job elsewhere, and have to let you attend external interviews or visit the job centre if requested, providing you have been employed with them for two years or more.
They may offer an alternative within the company if possible, although this is a double-edged sword; if a role exists and is not offered to you there could be scope for taking legal action for unfair dismissal, but if a suitable role is offered to you and you reject it, you may lose the right to statutory redundancy pay.
As before, redundancy can be horrible. Your life could be about to change for an extended period. Stay calm, know your rights, do your research – and make sure you are treated fairly.