Finding suitable alternative work is part of a robust redundancy selection procedure
With the unenviable task of selecting people for redundancy, most employers are aware of the absolute necessity of agreeing fair and objective criteria with employee representatives prior to the process. The criteria should be precisely defined and capable of being applied in an independent way so that no-one is, or can be perceived to have been, selected unfairly.
Examples of such criteria could include attendance record (though not accounting for absences arising from pregnancy, disability or other areas protected by discrimination law), disciplinary record, skills or experience, performance and aptitude. Employers should keep evidence that they have done all that they can to apply the agreed criteria objectively and fairly.
The value of doing so has been highlighted by the result of a recent tribunal case. A claimant who had been selected for redundancy brought a case against her employer for unfair dismissal when she wasn't offered what she thought was suitable alternative employment. Her colleague, who had successfully avoided redundancy in the same selection process, had resigned from her new post and the claimant felt she should have been considered for the position.
Both the employment tribunal and the appeals panel rejected her claim, noting that the selection process had been properly applied in good faith, and that the claimant, who had scored badly in that process, was not suitable for the job.
The case demonstrates that it is important for employers to show they have tried to find suitable alternative work for employees selected for redundancy. It also shows that the 'suitability' of the job is double-edged and that while an employee may consider herself suitable, it may be up to the employer to decide if this really is the case - based on the results of demonstrably fair, objective and robust selection procedure.
By the same token, if an employer offers an alternative, it is up to the employee to decide whether or not it is really suitable, based on factors such as pay, hours, location, status and working environment.
Acas offers advice on Redundancy, notice, retirement and transfers for both employers and employees, and has produced the Advisory booklet on Redundancy handling, which includes guidance on selection procedures and finding suitable alternative work. Training is also available to explain the law and best practice approaches to managing people through a Redundancy or restructuring situation.
Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.