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As employers look to the long-term viability of their businesses, we are seeing more employers implement collective redundancy consultation processes. With the rising cost to employers of the furlough scheme on the horizon, it is unfortunately inevitable that many more employers may be forced to make large scale redundancies as one of their next steps.
Our March newsletter brought you an overview of collective redundancy consultation. As a quick recap however, collective consultation will be relevant to you if you propose to make 20 or more employees redundant at one ‘establishment’ within a period of 90 days or less.
The significant loss some businesses are suffering, coupled with the predicted slow recovery of the economy, is more than many can sustain without significant restructuring.
The precise practical issues to be considered before conducting collective consultation will vary.
We have put together some key legal and practical tips:
‘Establishment’ usually, but not always, refers to the geographical business location. The meaning of ‘establishment’ is something that needs to be checked particularly carefully if you have mobile workforces or people who habitually work from home.
Separate employing group companies will be considered separate employers for the purpose of the collective redundancy consultation.
- Collective consultation processes may be unfamiliar to those that are elected as representatives. Consider if the representatives need ‘orientation training’ to understand their roles and responsibilities. We can help with that.
- Where the numbers of representatives exceeds the number that you were initially seeking, you may be able to avoid a ballot if you are prepared to have more representatives than you initially thought you would need.
- Where you require a ballot for the election of employee representatives, there is nothing inherently objectionable in a secret ballot being run online provided that adequate safeguards are in place to respect the secrecy of the ballot.
- The statutory minimum 30/45 day consultation period runs from the date that the statutory information is sent to the employee representatives - not the date that individuals are first put at risk.
Practicalities for facilitating communication
Consider having virtual meeting etiquette for running collective consultation meetings. One example of this is to ask everyone to be on mute and only one person speak at a time.
The first collective consultation meeting should usually be used as a planning meeting to determine how the rest of the collective consultation process will be run, particularly given the challenges of doing it all virtually.
Agree that agendas will be circulated ahead of time, so that meetings can be run efficiently. This will facilitate discussions amongst the representatives themselves to agree a common position.
Remember that there are four channels of communication going on during the collective consultation:
- representative to representative - no monitoring of communication is allowed by the employer here
- representative to workforce - no monitoring of communication is allowed by the employer here
- company to representatives - keep an open dialogue
- company to workforce - keep an open dialogue
Individual consultation meetings
Individual consultation meetings can, subject to collective consultation, happen during the statutory 30/45 day period.
Individual meetings can be ‘by appointment’ rather than forcing people who don’t want to come to individual meetings to come to individual meetings.