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Redundancy selection: 'Blind faith' in objectivity could be unfair, says EAT

In a redundancy situation, the purpose of having objective selection criteria is to ensure that employees are not unfairly selected for redundancy. But does that mean subjectivity is to be avoided at all costs - or is it possible to be too objective?

A recent decision from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) suggests that a selection procedure that's too objective can be unfair - and that subjectivity could have a valid part to play in a fair procedure.

The case dealt with an organisation that had 'put a lot of resources' into devising an objective procedure for redundancy selection. It had come up with 'an elaborate and HR-driven method' that primarily relied on competency tests normally used in recruitment processes.

When the results came back, they were 'acknowledged to be "very surprising"', with some 'very good' workers selected for redundancy. Even so, the employees were made redundant because it was thought that the process had been 'robust, fair and transparent'.

However, because the procedure was so elaborate, the EAT found that 'it was liable to be difficult to apply consistently'. They also said it was a mistake 'to deprive the benefit of input from managers and others who actually knew the staff in question'. 'Blind faith' in an objective process had led the employer to lose touch with 'common sense and fairness'. The EAT said that employers' fear that tribunals would find a procedure unfair if there was an 'element of "subjectivity"' was 'misplaced', and that the 'goal of avoiding subjectivity' could come 'at too high a price'.

Proper consultation with employees and their representatives about the selection criteria would have resulted in a better, fairer and more consistent procedure. Such a procedure may well have included some previously documented appraisals and performance assessments taken by managers who knew the staff.

Acas provides detailed advice and guidance on Selection criteria for redundancy and avoiding redundancies and Redundancy handling, which includes a section on selection criteria. Acas training in Managing change will tell you all you need to know about how to carry out redundancies in the most fair and efficient way possible.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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