Last reviewed 7 August 2020

Updated advice to employers who are considering staff redundancies has been issued by the arbitration service, Acas.

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, noted that some businesses have found innovative ways to deal with the coronavirus crisis through restructuring that has allowed them to safeguard jobs in consultation with trade unions.

“Our advice in this area recommends alternatives to redundancies, which should always be used [as] a last resort, as well [as] how to follow the law if it cannot be avoided,” she went on.

Employers should properly consult with their staff to seek their views on ideas that can help mitigate the financial difficulties that the business may be facing due to coronavirus, Acas argues.

Solutions could include a recruitment freeze or limits on overtime.

In its advice note, available at https://www.acas.org.uk/manage-staff-redundancies, Acas highlights other options that employers can consider, including:

  • looking at more flexible ways of working and agreeing to update employment contracts to allow more flexible working such as remote working to reduce office costs, compressed hours or job shares

  • agreeing with staff to stop working for a while or to work fewer hours

  • moving employees who would otherwise be made redundant into other suitable jobs within the organisation; it should be noted that failure to offer an available suitable role could be judged as an unfair dismissal.

A last resort

If all else fails, then redundancy may be the only option. In which case, there are strict rules around consulting affected employees to which employers must adhere.

If they wish to make 20 or more staff redundant, employers need to also consult a recognised trade union or elected employee representatives about the proposed changes.

During the consultation period, they must let their staff know in writing:

  • why they need to make redundancies

  • the number of employees and which jobs are at risk

  • how they will select employees for redundancy

  • how they plan to carry out the redundancies, including timeframes

  • how they will calculate redundancy pay

  • if they are using agency workers, how many, where they are working and the type of work they are doing.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

The option of redundancy can be rather onerous which is why Acas’s guidelines on alternative measures will be welcomed by employers for the most part.

There may be instances, though, where employers will no longer have use for the roles in question and aren’t able to deploy the employee elsewhere — this is when the full redundancy procedure highlighted by Acas will prove useful.

Ultimately, employers just need to be aware that while redundancies are a last resort, they may not be avoidable; however, the coronavirus situation doesn’t negate the necessity of a full procedure being followed.