Unfair dismissal versus redundancy

Unfair dismissal versus redundancy

Recently lost your job and not sure what to do next?

Whether there seem to be valid reasons for your redundancy, or you think you may have been treated unfairly, it’s always important you know your rights.

Here the Money Advice Service talks about what makes a fair redundancy process, and when you may be considered to be a victim of unfair dismissal:

Unfair dismissal and redundancy defined

If your job disappears, generally it’s termed as redundancy. When you’re made redundant, you’ve done nothing wrong and no one is questioning your ability to do your job.

Reasons for redundancy may include cutting costs, or a company having to close down or relocate – or because the work you do is simply not needed anymore.

Employers are obligated to speak to you directly about why you have been selected for job loss, and be prepared to discuss any alternatives to redundancy.

If this doesn’t happen, you may have been unfairly dismissed.

There are some factors for which your employer would not be allowed to dismiss you on the basis of. These include gender; age; race; sexual orientation and disability, among others.

The Money Advice Service has a guide which further explains the differences between redundancy and unfair dismissal.

What is a fair redundancy process?

If you’re faced with redundancy, your employer must treat you fairly and act in accordance with your employment contract and the law. That includes making sure you’re consulted, following the right selection process and giving you proper notice.

There should be clear and objective reasons for putting a role up for redundancy.

You are entitled to a minimum notice period by law. You should have at least one week’s notice if you have been employed between one month and two years; one week’s notice for each year if employed between two and 12 years; and 12 weeks’ notice if you’ve been employed by the company for 12 years or more.

Make sure you check your contract of employment, as it may state that you are entitled to longer notice periods.

What if I’m not offered a notice period for my redundancy?

Your employer could offer you pay in lieu of notice, which is essentially a lump sum, paid to you instead of working your notice period. This pay is taxed in the same way as your salary would be usually.

You could also be asked to serve your notice period away from work, which is called gardening leave. This means that, although you’re not actually working, you’re still legally employed and will receive your normal salary and benefits. But, you have to stick to the rules of your contract, you may still be called back to work if you’re needed, and you won’t be able to start a job with a new employer in this time.

What’s the consultation period?

You have the right to a consultation period before redundancy is decided. In short, your employer must tell you what’s going on and give you a chance to ask questions and raise objections. The consultation process is dependent on how many people your employer is planning to make redundant.

The Money Advice Service has a useful guide on your legal rights in redundancy, including your right to time off to look for a new job.

What should you do if you are the victim of unfair dismissal?

If you think you are the victim of unfair dismissal, don’t panic. There are some clear guidelines you can follow.

The first thing you should do if you think your redundancy is unfair is to appeal against your employer’s decision. Check your contract or staff handbook for guidelines on how to do this, and make sure you watch out for any time limits. Be prepared to explain why you think it’s unfair you’ve been chosen for redundancy and what you want your employer to do to put the situation right.

If you belong to a trade union or have an employee representative, it may be a good idea to get them involved at this point. They may be better at arguing the case on your behalf.

If negotiations with your employer don’t work and you think you have a strong case, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. Before you do this, you must notify Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), or the Labour Relations Agency if you live in Northern Ireland.

You must notify them as soon as possible, because in unfair dismissal claims you must make the claim to a tribunal within 3 months of being dismissed.

What if you need an employment tribunal?           

If you can’t settle your claim through early conciliation and still think you have a strong case, you can take your employer to an employment tribunal.

There is a minimum qualifying period before you qualify for the right to claim unfair dismissal at a tribunal. If you started your job on or after 6 April 2012, the qualifying period is normally two years.

If you started your job before 6 April 2012, the qualifying period is normally one year.

You may have to pay a fee to make a claim but this may be waived if you are on a low income.

How should you manage your money after redundancy?

Finally, whether you are made redundant, or unfairly dismissed, you may be worried about the impact of a drop in income.

The Money Advice Service has a useful guide on reviewing your budget in these circumstances, which will help minimise the impact due to your loss of income, and help you get back on your feet in no time.

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