Reopening to Redundancy?
Now as restrictions ease and the vaccine rollout advances, and the economy begins to emerge from the grip of COVID 19; many employers if they are to trade successfully in the post-pandemic economy, will undoubtedly need to review business plans with a view to operational efficiencies and cost reductions. These cost savings might be found in rent & lease reductions, more employees working from home to allow for smaller, cheaper premises. Other considerations might be agreed reductions in employee pay and or hours. However, the likelihood is that many employers will unfortunately be forced to consider redundancies.
COVID 19 has had a major impact on the economy and the working environment. How has this impact changed employment law legislation and particularly, in relation to Redundancy? In reality, not a lot; the only change of note was the suspension of the employee’s right to request Redundancy (most recently extended to June 30th), following a period of short-time/lay-off.
All else remains unchanged; including the definition of redundancy as set out the Redundancy Payments Acts, (1967 to 2007) which states; A “redundancy” situation is defined as occurring when there is a dismissal of an employee by an employer, not related to the employee concerned, and the dismissal results “wholly or mainly” from one of the following situations;
(a) Where an employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business for the purposes for which the employee was employed by him, or has ceased or intends to cease to carry on that business in the place where the employee was so employed
(b) Where the requirements of that business for an employee to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where he was so employed have ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish
(c) Where the employer has decided to carry on the business with fewer or no employees whether by requiring the work for which the employee had been employed (or had been doing before his dismissal) to be done by other employers or otherwise.
(d) Where an employer has decided that the work for which the employee has been employed (or had been doing before his dismissal), should henceforth be done in a different manner for which the employee is not sufficiently qualified or trained.
(e) Where an employer has decided that the work for which the employee has been employed (or had been doing before his dismissal) should henceforth
However, it would seem that not all employers are aware that what defines redundancy or of the requirement for a fair and transparent redundancy process still applies, regardless of the impact of COVID19 has had on the employer’s business. Decisions issued form the WRC show that while an Adjudication Officer might well be sympathetic to an employer’s circumstance, as a result of the pandemic, they are not prepared to disregard the legislated rights of employees. In two recent cases; one brought under Unfair Dismissal Legislation, the other under Payment of Wages; two different Adjudication Officers, found in favour of the employee and awarded the sum of €10,000 & €1,225.72, respectively.
It is important that employers are aware of the different scenarios that might create redundancy scenarios, including a change of location. In every situation employers should engage with their employee/s in a fair and transparent two-way consultation process allowing input from the employees and to consider possible alternatives to Redundancy