Is making someone redundant by video link fair and legal?

Because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses are using online video platforms to make staff redundant. But is making someone redundant by video link legal? Kate Palmer of Peninsula explains what employers need to consider.

Redundancy Video UK

What is best practice when making staff redundant?

According to the latest Labour Market Outlook, a third of UK organisations are expecting to cut jobs in the next quarter of 2020, largely due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the global economic situation caused by the pandemic, companies who are considering making redundancies are exploring the option of doing so virtually.

However, employers must be careful not to avoid using the full redundancy process, whether they plan to use video platforms or meet staff in person. Various steps will need to be considered in any redundancy exercise. These are:

  • considering if there are alternatives to redundancies
  • notifying the Department of Business Innovation and Skills on Form HR1 if there are to be more than 19 employees affected
  • collective consultation will be required in all cases where more than 19 employees are affected but should be considered even in smaller exercises
  • statutory duties to consult and inform appropriate representatives of affected employees
  • the method and unit to be used for selection, along with the selection process
  • individual consultation will be required in all cases
  • ending the contract of employment through the proper use of notice or payment in lieu of notice
  • the payments that will be due to any employees who are made redundant
  • offering a right of appeal to anyone who is selected for redundancy

Are redundancies via video link legal in the UK?

Holding consultancy meetings, whether individual or collective, are essential to the redundancy process. Given that many workplaces are currently working remotely, it begs the question of whether it would be fair and legal to hold these meetings virtually. The simple answer is, yes.

Given that this is unchartered territory, the law doesn’t explicitly say that a redundancy process cannot be conducted virtually.

Should businesses be using video calls for redundancy meetings?

Face-to-face consultations should always be the go-to approach where possible and some employers may still be able to hold face-to-face consultations, so long as the proper social distancing measures of 1-metre-plus is observed. However, in the meantime, it’s safe to assume that virtual redundancies might become commonplace for the foreseeable future.

Although it can be daunting to conduct a redundancy process this way, it is still more personable than email and telephone as it can help to reduce the anxiety for both employer and employee and can help employers to build understanding and empathy towards affected employees.

The bottom line is that the pandemic has created a lot of grey areas, affecting our day to day lives, as well as employers’ businesses. Still, employers need to ensure that laws on redundancy aren’t broken. To reiterate, a proper redundancy procedure should always be followed regardless of the current coronavirus situation – or whether the employee is on furlough, annual leave, or family leave etc.

What are the alternatives to redundancy?

Before making employees redundant, first employers should always explore alternative options to redundancy and allow employees to contribute suggestions. For example:

  • introducing a freeze on recruitment
  • reducing overtime
  • reducing the use of temporary workers being hired
  • re-training employees into other areas (redeployment)
  • reducing sub-contracting
  • temporary lay-offs or short-working (more information can be found on our employment law pages)
  • changing terms and conditions to reflect a wage freeze, wage cut, reduction in bonus or pension contributions

About the author

Kate Palmer is Associate Director of Advisory at global employment law consultancy at Peninsula.

See also

A third of UK organisations expecting jobs cuts in the next quarter of 2020

Five things to consider before making staff redundant

How to write a redundancy letter

How to calculate redundancy pay for furloughed staff

Find out more

Labour Market Outlook Summer 2020 (CIPD)

Form HR1 (GOV.UK)

Redundancy: your rights (GOV.UK)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 17 August 2020

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.