Redundancy dismissals mean that the employees who leave are no longer wanted. It may be that their work is no longer needed, or that it can be done by others, automated or outsourced. The aim may simply be to avoid the cost of their pay and benefits; though this has to be a longer-term goal if length of service and pay levels mean the initial costs of redundancy pay and notice pay are high: statutory redundancy pay can be up to £16,140 and notice pay will be at least 12 weeks’ pay for those with such long service.
By far the most important business aims of redundancy should be about the future. Unless the business is stopping altogether, choices have to be made between employees. The decision should be much more about who stays, than about who leaves. Who will most benefit the business or organisation? Who is the best value for the money spent on paying them? Whose capabilities and characteristics fit best what is needed for the future and will contribute most to viability and success?
These considerations will identify what is best for the business. That is the primary aim, and then second to that is to act wisely and lawfully to reduce the risk as much as possible. Thankfully, the law on fair redundancy provides that selection should be on the basis of which staff best fit what the business will need. So it is two sides of the same coin, and business and legal aims can both be achieved, by one process.
A genuine, non-discriminatory wish to keep the best staff, and a reasonable and fair selection to demonstrate who are the best staff, will mean that redundancy dismissals end in retaining the best and letting the others go with lowered risk. It all needs to be documented, and avoidance of the main pitfall of pre-judging the outcome, along with following a fair procedure. If that is done and any suitable alternative work is offered, redundancy dismissal is not only lawful but can be low risk and make good business sense. Avoiding redundancy because of legal risk is not good business sense and it’s unnecessary. Putting off the inevitable because it’s easier for now can also be counterintuitive in the long term.
Another laudable aim which makes both good business and legal sense, is treating all staff with humanity, recognising the right to dignity, and the value of everyone. Staff who remain will see how others are treated. Staff who are leaving are far less likely to push back if the redundancy process is genuine and nicely done. Do as you would be done by is a fair guideline, when it comes to the process, if not the decision. After all, you are making decisions about colleagues that may well drastically affect their lives, their home, their families and their income. Redundancy is not just about money, you are taking away their right to belong to the business or organisation. Tribunals like niceness and they particularly hate the abuse of power that treats the vulnerable with unkindness. The aim is to preserve what goodwill you can all round: it’s always an invaluable intangible asset.
Last but not least, choose lawyers who understand the business sense and the human sense of doing redundancy well; who understand that managers are human too and need to be able to live with themselves. A good lawyer will share all these aims, look after you, and do you a favour, legally, commercially, and personally. Aim for that and don’t settle for less.