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Redundancies at work: what are your rights?

Redundancies at work: what are your rights?

People often panic when they hear the word ‘redundancy’ in the workplace. You may be concerned about your options going forward if your job is under threat. How will you feed your family? Will you ever get another job?

It’s ok to have these concerns, but it’s important that you address them rather than letting them fester. Knowing your rights is a big step in the right direction to gaining peace of mind.

If redundancy is on the cards, you have the legal right to:

  1. A fair processRedundancy isn’t the same as getting the sack. It usually happens if your job is no longer needed or the company is making cuts. The management team must be fair and objective in their selection of roles being made redundant, and be able to explain their reasons. For example, they can’t make you redundant because you are older than most of your colleagues or because of your gender or race, but they can if they’re moving production overseas and have no further need for UK-based staff.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you should be able to appeal the decision. If a suitable outcome cannot be achieved this way, you can also take your employer to a tribunal. If your employer has not followed a fair process in selecting you for redundancy, you may be asked to sign an agreement confirming that you won’t take them to a tribunal in response. There is often an additional payment involved at this stage.

Think carefully before accepting this sort of ‘compromise’ agreement and consult a union rep or solicitor if you have any concerns. Your employer is obliged to pay for independent legal advice so that you are fully aware of any rights you’re sacrificing.

  1. A minimum notice periodCheck your employment contract and find out what your agreed notice period is.. Redundancy law states that you’re entitled to a minimum of 12 weeks’ notice if you’ve been with the firm for 12 or more years, and a week’s notice if you’ve been employed there between a month and two years (with a week’s notice for each year of employment during this period). If your employment contract states a longer notice period, your employer should honour this.

If your employer doesn’t want you to continue in your role during your notice period, you may be offered gardening leave or a lump sum payment without any further work undertaken. If you take gardening leave, you will still be legally employed during your notice period and will need to stick to the rules of your contract applicable. You could be recalled to work within your notice period and are not eligible for other paid work in the meantime, unless you obtain permission.

  1. Consultation. The management team must consult with employees before making anyone redundant. They’re obliged to tell you what’s happening and give you the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns. They must be willing to consider alternatives to redundancies, reduce the number of redundancies and look for ways to minimise the fallout. The type and length of consultation needed will depend on the size of the organisation and the number of proposed redundancies.
  2. Time off to look for work. You are entitled to paid time off to look for work or to undergo relevant training, within reason. If you’ve worked continuously for your employer for at least two years, they have to pay you up to 40% of a week’s pay to cover your time off. For example, if you work a five-day week you can take two days off to attend interviews and your employer will have to pay you for this time. If you take any more time off than this, they’re not legally obliged to pay you for it, but there’s no harm in asking!

Tying up loose ends

If you’ve been offered a new job and your new boss wants you to start before your redundancy notice period ends, put a written request in to your employer explaining when and why you want to leave. It’s up to them whether they accept your request. Failure to get the required clearance could result in you losing some or all of your redundancy pay. If your employer refuses, talk to your trade union or Citizens Advice.

On your last day at work, you should receive any outstanding wages, holiday pay and other money owed, references from your employer, a letter confirming the date of your redundancy, a written statement that shows how your redundancy pay has been calculated, a P45, and details of your workplace pension.