On the 6th April 2013 the Government introduced a rather significant change to the rules relating to collective redundancy that companies have to abide by. With regard to what it meant by collective the Government have classed it as any company that is looking to make 100 or more staff members redundant. The rule change that has caused the most consternation is that they are reducing the minimum consultation period required for the company to undertake from 90 days to 45 days.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) argue that this change has come about because apparently the consultation process is often completed well within the 90-day period that was in place prior to the 6th April. They felt that the 90-day period caused unnecessary delays in restructuring and made it difficult for those being made redundant to find new jobs. Now as expected business groups have welcomed this move with open arms with some groups claiming that this shorter time will not have a detrimental impact on the quality of consultation and that in reality some employee’s would prefer a shorter time scale so that they can minimise any periods of upset surrounding their future.
What are the unions saying about collective redundancy changes?
The Unions meanwhile have come out strongly against the changes with the TUC’s General Secretary declaring:
“The Last thing we need is for the government to make it easier to sack people…The idea that an employer will change their mind about taking someone on because the statutory redundancy consultation period has been reduced from 90 to 45 days is close to absurd”.
This view is echoed in similar statements from other Unions across Britain.
The danger that employee’s could potentially face is that with the new time limit being a month and a half there is the risk that their employer could just drag their feet for a few weeks and get around the consultation period that way. With a 90-day period it is more of a challenge to get away from some meaningful consultation. One has to hope that if employers do just aim to sit out the consultation period without any meaningful discourse an Employment tribunal will not be satisfied by their inaction.
The final thing to remember in this change is that the period is the minimum required consultation period. It does not mean that if discussions are going well the employer just breaks things off when it hits 46 days as they’ve done the minimum required, they should seriously think about extending the period if it looks like it will be necessary.