LIFE BITE: Redundancy – What next for Thomas Cook employees?

apple-150579_1280The devastating news of the closure of Thomas Cook has dominated the headlines this week and all of us feel deeply saddened for affected staff members and holiday makers alike, many of whom are still stranded with questions remaining about what, if any, redress could be available to them.

 

Employees with two or more years of service are entitled to statutory redundancy pay.  In situations where the employer is insolvent, payments may be made from the National Insurance Fund. Free guidance and an online calculator are available on government websites.

A recent tribunal decision in England Harper and Others v BJS Yorkshire Limited, 26 employees brought a claim against their former employer, a freight company, after the company had gone into voluntary liquidation without any notice to employees or any period of consultation. These employees were ultimately awarded a £100,000.00 having complained about being “being kept in the dark” about the future of their employment. While no two cases are the same, it is reassuring to see how the law can assist those who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own.

It is important to be aware that time frames are strict for employment law claims and therefore advice should be sought as soon as possible.

For further information relating to redundancy or for any other employment law issue, feel free to contact us here on using the form below

Redundancy: What An Employer Needs To Know

 

redundancy1Downsizing your business and considering redundancies is a prospect you many employers throughout the life of a business may have to face at one time or another.

This is a grim prospect for you as a business owner but more particularly for your affected employees.

It is therefore vital that you as an employer handle this process fairly and in a manner that protects you from any potential unfair dismissal claims made by your employees.

What do I need to look at when considering redundancies?

When handling redundancies, you will be deemed to be acting fairly both morally and legally if you treat the matter with ‘RESPECT’, that is;-

R = Redundancy

You must be able to show that a genuine redundancy situation exists in your business

E = Employees

You should ensure that your employees are fully consulted about the redundancy situation.

S = Selection

You must use objective and verifiable criteria when you are considering which roles are to be made redundant

P = Procedure

You should follow the 3 step dismissal procedure:-

  1. Inform the employee in writing of the circumstances which are leading to you considering redundancies, invite them to a meeting to discuss the matter and warn them that a possible outcome is dismissal.
  2. Hold a meeting with the employee to discuss the proposed redundancies. An outcome of the meeting must be provided and your employee must be informed of their right of appeal.
  3. If your employee chooses to exercise the right of appeal, an appeal hearing must be held and a final decision provided
E = Employment

You should consider whether there are any alternative job roles that could be filled by those being made redundant in order to avoid the redundancy.

C = Calculation

You need to ensure that the correct redundancy payment is calculated

T = Termination

You must ensure that a letter is sent to the employee confirming the end of their employment

The underlying legal principle when considering redundancies is that of reasonableness – i.e. have you as an employer behaved reasonably in all of the circumstances towards your employee when handling their redundancy?

Before embarking on this process, it is important to obtain specialist advice from an employment lawyer ton how best to handle the process. This will ensure that it is handled objectively and not contaminated with emotion which could end up costing you dearly.

For more information on this area, please contact us here or via email on info@fhanna.co.uk 

 

 

LIFE BITE: Tribunal orders compensation to 143 ex Ulster University staff after “very serious failure” to consult over Redundancies

apple-150579_1280The University and College Union has won a case against the University of Ulster over its failure to consult on redundancies, securing the maximum award for staff involved. 

 

The case was taken by University College Union when 143 members of teaching and other staff lost their jobs in April 2016, after the University suffered a substantial reduction in DEL funding. Some of the University faculties were closed at the time and undergraduate numbers were reduced.

The Tribunal held that large scale redundancies were inevitable by June 2015 and that discussions ought to have begun with the Union much earlier than they did.  The University had failed in its obligations, both under statute and its own redundancy policy.  They found that the process was a “fait accompli” with no opportunity for input by the Trade Union who were “actively mislead” and “ostracised” by the University management.   The Union were provided with insufficient time and information to meaningfully engage with counter proposals. Effectively, the Tribunal said, the University “put a gun” to the heads of the affected employees.

The University’s failures, the Tribunal said, meant that some staff were treated very poorly which was a “deeply unsatisfactory consequence”. The Tribunal found that  failures were deliberate and there was an intention to keep the Union out of the process.

The case looked at the law on the duty to consult about redundancies and whether this had been complied with.  It considered whether these redundancies amounted to dismissals, which it found they had.  Consideration was also given to what protective award should be made to which staff and for what period. The Tribunal made the maximum award of compensation finding that the University failed egregiously in its duties.

Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors acted for the University College Union in this very significant case, with Counsel Tom Brown, from Cloisters.

Martin Hanna, Partner, Francis Hanna & Co, said:

“We are delighted with this result which has significant ramifications not only for the Trade Union and staff involved but also for the university and other employers, employees and unions involved in redundancies. The decision provides important guidance for employers on the duty to consult with Trade Unions and the timeliness and sufficiency of that consultation. Further it serves as an important reminder of the effect of an employer failing to adhere to its legal obligations.”

Should you require any further information on any aspect of Employment law or redundancy, please feel free to contact us here.

LIFE BITE: Thinking of pulling a sickie to enjoy the sunshine? Think again!

apple-150579_1280For the last few days, Belfast has enjoyed some unexpected sunshine with temperatures rivalling those of European holiday destinations like Spain and Italy.   Summer seems to have arrived … though for how long is anyone’s guess!   

 

The last place many people want to be during the hot weather is in work – most of us would rather be dusting off the BBQs and basking in the sunshine.  However, if you’re considering “pulling a sickie” to avail of what may be the only few days of a Northern Irish summer, think again!

The Employment Appeal Tribunal in England dealt with the case of Metroline West Ltd v Mr Ajaj and has held that ‘pulling a sickie’ is dishonest and a fundamental breach of contract.  Mr Ajaj was a bus driver and although he was injured whilst at work, he falsely claimed to be worse than he was.  He wasn’t off for just one day however he was caught out exaggerating his injury as his employer had him under covert surveillance.

The Tribunal that dealt with the case initially held that the fairness of dismissal should be assessed on ‘capability’ considerations however, the Employment appeal tribunal disagreed.   The Judge dealing with the appeal stated that “an employee (who) “pulls a sickie” is representing that he is unable to attend work by reason of sickness.  If that person is not sick, that seems to me to amount to dishonesty and to a fundamental breach of the trust and confidence that is at the heart of the employer/employee relationship.”

You have been warned!

For any further information on employment law issues, please feel free to contact us here.

Belfast Chamber puts Employment Law in the Spotlight

MGGD employment talkBelfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce is to host an Employment Law Workshop in partnership with Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors.

The Workshop is aimed at giving businesses the opportunity to receive expert advice on how to protect their business as well as guiding them through the latest Employment Law updates.

President of Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce, Hugh Black explains:

“This seminar is a must for all employers who want to remain educated on their current obligations towards their employees’ rights.  It is an informative, up-to-date guide which will be delivered by experts on employment law.”

Gerry Daly, partner at Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors adds:-

“Businesses will be given a briefing on a range of employee rights.  We will be dealing with disciplinary matters and grievances as well as equality in the workplace.  We will also be examining ways of minimising the risk of litigation. Attendees will also get a chance to talk to us on a one-to-one basis about their own particular situations.”

The seminar will take place on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 in Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce Offices at 2nd floor Sinclair House, 95-101 Royal Avenue Belfast.

Places are limited so if you are a BCTC member and are interested in attending this Workshop, emailing the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce Officer Martina Connolly, on m.connolly@belfastcentre.com or call 028 90 331399 by Friday 19th September 2015 to reserve your place.