A Survival Guide to Redundancy in the City

Job-Losses-Concept

Barclays announcement that it is planning to cut more than 30,000 of its staff within two years across its global workforce to reduce costs, address chronic underperformance and to hit an ambitious target of doubling its share price may be the beginning of a wave of redundancies across the City and Canary Wharf.

Employment law specialists Arpita Dutt and Polly Rodway, of top City solicitors BDBF, offer  some employment law tips if your job may be coming to an untimely end due to redundancy.

Generally speaking, employees working in Great Britain who have sufficient service can challenge redundancy by way of an unfair dismissal claim.

However, worryingly this right may not apply to employees who are assigned overseas – an increasing trend in global organisations.

We share our top tips to help you emerge from the redundancy process in as good a shape as possible, even if you are working overseas.

Do your homework: check whether there is a trade union or employee representative body that will be the relevant information receiving and negotiating body. Keep yourself informed. Check your contract, company policies, and what any relevant collective agreement say about redundancy.  They might refer to a right to enhanced redundancy pay (over and above statutory entitlement) or fixed procedures. If so, make sure that your employer is doing what they are supposed to do.  Also check bonus and share schemes – they might incorporate “good leaver” terms if you are dismissed for redundancy.

Phone a friend: most employers allow employees to be accompanied at redundancy “at risk” meetings by a colleague or trade union representative.  If you aren’t told that you can be accompanied at an “at risk” meeting, ask.  Bring along someone you trust and who you can rely on to take a detailed note.  This will help you keep an accurate record of the meeting and enables you to properly engage in the consultation process.  If your employer’s notes are inconsistent with your own (or your companion’s), ask your employer to put a copy of your notes on file.

Question time: in order to fairly dismiss for redundancy, your employer should consult with you about the redundancy situation and consider alternative roles.  If you have any questions during the consultation process, ask them.

Key issues to look for:

Have you been told why your role is at risk? Does it make business sense?

Have you been told who else is at risk?

Have you been given the selection criteria and your scores?

Has one of your colleagues been missed out?

Do you think that other people should have been included in the pool?

Do you think that your employer should have considered “bumping” (i.e. removing others from their roles so that you can fill their vacancy)?

Have you been told about all existing vacancies (including roles that are junior/senior to yours)? Have you been given a fair opportunity to apply for those roles?

Have you seen the selection criteria for alternative roles? Do you think they are fair?

Is there a job vacancy that you haven’t been told about?

It’s a numbers game: if your employer is proposing to make 20 or more employees redundant in a period of 90 days, then they have additional collective consultation obligations.  If they fail to comply with these obligations, you may have an additional claim for up to 90 days’ gross pay.   Often the obligation will be triggered without employees knowing about how many redundancies are in the present wave and where they are located. If you think this is the case, ask your employer or the relevant representative body.

Is there another reason?: employers often view “redundancy” as the easiest way to exit an employee.  For that reason, a redundancy process can be used to cloak more sinister acts (even discrimination or repercussions of whistleblowing).  If this is the case, you may have additional more valuable claims against your employer beyond a claim of unfair dismissal.  If you suspect discrimination or other unlawful acts, or you think that redundancy is being used to “mask” another reason for your exit, make a careful note of anything that is said or done which supports your allegation. This can be used as evidence later down the line.

Appeal: as part of the redundancy process you should be given a right of appeal.  Exercise your right to do so.  Make sure your appeal is submitted in time and identifies the specific issues you have with the redundancy process or decision.

The Expatriate Dilemma

A redundancy situation is tough for anyone. However, for employees assigned to work outside of Great Britain, the prospect of job cuts on their return, or whilst they are abroad can be even more of a concern as the ability to challenge redundancy by way of an unfair dismissal claim may not be available.

This is because of the limited territorial scope of the legislation which establishes the right to claim unfair dismissal.  Generally speaking, under that legislation (and as a result of a chain of cases on the issue) only a limited category of employees working outside of Great Britain will attain the right to claim unfair dismissal in Great Britain.  For those who don’t fall into specific categories of worker (such as employees working in a territorial political or social enclave or posted overseas for the purpose of a business in Great Britain – e.g. being a foreign correspondent in a newspaper), the employee must show that they have a sufficiently strong connection with Great Britain in order to have the right to claim unfair dismissal.

Whether or not there is a sufficiently strong connection between the employee and Great Britain depends on the facts.  Relevant issues may include:

  • where the employee calls “home”;
  • the currency of salary/benefits;
  • whether the GB business benefits from the work in any way;
  • duration and pattern of work outside of Great Britain and how often the employee returns; and
  • the jurisdiction in which issues relating to the employment relationship have been handled.
  • If the employee cannot establish a strong enough connection and doesn’t fall into any of the specific categories, they will not be able to claim unfair dismissal in Great Britain. This means, unless they have accrued legal rights elsewhere, the options for legal recourse following redundancy are worryingly limited. For that reason, and given the tricky nature of the law in this area, expatriate employees facing (or in fear of facing) redundancy on their return to Great Britain should seek legal advice. Equally, employees being offered an overseas assignment should consider taking pre-emptive advice on their contract to ensure that their rights are protected.

    Arpita Dutt and Polly Rodway of BDBF LLP

    http://www.bdbf.co.uk/