This post was contributed by Jahan Meeran, Trainee Solicitor, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, London
A recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) illustrates the pitfalls of not adopting a sensitive consultation process in the event of redundancy..
In the case, the claimant had been employed by the property management division of his employer for over 40 years. Following a strategic review, the company decided to reduce the number of director roles. On 6 January 2014, the claimant was put on garden leave and placed into a redundancy pool comprising only himself. On 8 January a letter was sent to the claimant addressing him with the wrong name (“Paul” instead of “Peter”). Via further correspondence in January 2014 he was later provided with a list of alternative vacancies and suggestions. In a final consultation meeting on 13 February he was confirmed redundant. He was then sent a dismissal letter on 14 February which had the wrong termination date in it. The claimant believed that the redundancy process was a sham and that the company had a policy of dismissing employees at around age 60 and brought a claim for unfair dismissal.
The employment tribunal found that the consultation was insensitive but that the claimant had not been unfairly dismissed.
The EAT disagreed. It found that the consultation process was perfunctory and insensitive and therefore, absent any further findings or information, it cannot have been reasonable. The unfair dismissal claim was therefore remitted to another employment tribunal.
The case demonstrates that the redundancy process must be handled in a sensitive manner. Communications should be carefully drafted and the decision to place ‘at risk’ employees on garden leave should not be taken lightly.