Consideration of redundancy cases is a three-stage process:
- determine whether there is a redundancy situation and if so, which post(s) should be identified as “at risk” of redundancy (ie. The pool for consultation and selection)
- consult to seek to avoid, reduce or mitigate the potential redundancy
- determine what selection process and criteria should be used to select those staff that will be redundant and apply it
In some cases where a truly unique post is disappearing, there will be no need to apply selection criteria.
The pool is focussed on identifying work and activities which are no longer required to meet current and future needs. Deciding on the appropriate selection pool involves considering which individuals perform the work that is no longer required, and which individuals perform broadly similar work. Application of the selection criteria, conversely, is focussed upon identifying activities and skills/experience which will be required to meet current and future needs and/or reasonable aspirations.
2. What is a redundancy?
Redundancy is specifically defined as:
A dismissal is by reason of redundancy if the dismissal is wholly or mainly attributable to:-
- The closure of the business or the workplace ie. the fact that the employer has ceased or intends to cease:
- to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was employed by him; or
- to carry on that business in the place where the employee was so employed; or
- A diminution in the need for employees in the business or the workplace ie. the fact that the requirements of that business have (or are expected to) ceased/diminished:
- for staff to carry out work of a particular kind; or
- for staff to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where the person was so employed.
For a dismissal to count as a redundancy:
- (i) the requirements for work of a particular kind must have ceased or diminished, and
- (ii) the dismissal must be attributable (wholly or mainly) to that fact.
Thus a redundancy situation occurs where the funding or job ceases, or fewer staff are required in the job, or else where the business, function or site closes. This also allows for a wider pool for selection than might be obvious, given that dismissals may be attributable to a redundancy situation without necessarily being the posts immediately affected by the reduced requirement for such jobs. There may even be a continuing need for a job or kind of work to be done, but there may still be a redundancy if the requirement for that particular post has ceased for some reason (eg. Lack of funds). In determining whether the requirements for staff to do “work of a particular kind” has ceased or diminished, it is the nature of the work, not the nature of the member of staff doing the work or the funding stream they are financed from, which matters.
Therefore it is possible for a dismissal to be a redundancy even when the amount of income and/or amount of work has not declined, but there is still a reduced requirement for work of a particular kind to be done.
3. Identification of a redundancy pool
The first stage is to identify the affected staff arising from cessation of the funding, contract or activities. This becomes the "pool for selection" where more than one person is affected.
The pool comprises the individual or group of staff that is performing “work of a particular kind” that has either ceased or diminished. Where funding, or the contract, or the activity is ceasing managers need to consider what activities are performed, and what are the skills & competences necessary to perform those activities.
Thus the pool is initially defined by the role and activities which are ceasing. Subsequently a wider pool may be relevant and defined by the skills and competencies necessary to perform the role and activities.
4. Practical steps to define the pool
The flowchart highlights the steps to consider. Managers should consider the following aspects:
- Identify the particular type of work which is diminishing, via the funding and function performed;
- Define the kind of work through (i) the activities performed, and (ii) the ability, knowledge, experience, skills, competencies, and qualifications necessary to perform them;
- Focus upon the job spec of the affected post. Separate broad generic capabilities from job-specific ones; this and job-specific contextual knowledge can help to limit the pool;
- Consider the extent of knowledge etc. necessary to do the particular work. Knowledge may include understanding of and/or ability to apply knowledge of a discipline, specialism, principles, technology, techniques, methodologies or processes;
- Consider whether the pool can reasonably be confined by (i) the job level or family relevant to the performance of the activities, (ii) specialism or discipline, (iii) geographic location, (iv) functional area of work, (v) the required coverage of the service ie. Project, section, School/RI/Service, College, TVP territory, University-wide roles;
- Consider whether it is reasonable to extend the pool wider than the team/project, ie. School/RI/Service, College, TVP territory, or University-wide as necessary;
- Discuss extent of pool with Head of College, Head of School/RI/Service and collaborators where appropriate;
- If unique post then pool = 1
5. How wide is the pool?
If a member of staff is effectively carrying out a standalone job, then the pool is limited to that person alone, and no further selection procedure is necessary. In appropriate cases the pool will initially comprise the member(s) of staff for whom specific funding for their post, or the need for their role, has ceased or diminished. A wider pool will only be used if the activities to be performed, and the related skills and competencies to do so, are sufficiently similar or interchangeable to merit it.
Same or Similar Work?
Firstly, focus on the similarities not the differences between the jobs to establish the degree of similarity. Then focus on the differences and apply a common sense interpretation when deciding if they are broadly similar. In exploring similarity, focus on the work carried out, rather than on the experience or qualifications possessed.
It is advisable to consider whether there are other staff whose jobs are "interchangeable" when compared with the work that there is a reduced requirement for. If so, it may be necessary to include such staff in the pool. This is particularly the case if the staff have actually carried out the work that is reducing and if they have all the skills required to do that work.
In redundancies, interchangeable is not a 2-way process. If job A is to be ceased, it is only necessary for job A to be interchangeable with job B, and not vice versa. There is no need for job B to be interchangeable with job A.
Consideration needs to be given to both the “technical” skills and the broader knowledge and experience necessary to perform the roles. It is quite feasible that many roles will require a similar range of core or generic “technical” skills, and this may mean that such posts are included in the pool. However, in some cases, the context in which those skills are applied, and the knowledge and experience necessary to do so effectively, are very different. Such contextual requirements may in fact mean that posts with the basic “technical” skills are not drawn into that pool.
Extent of business “unit” affected
It is desirable to limit the pool to the boundaries of the resource unit (decision-making unit) which employs the “at risk” staff. The decision-making unit is defined by the financial and management structures commonly in use in relation to the particular redundancy situation that is being considered ie. School/RI/Service, Centre, College, Vice-Principal’s territory (ie. Arts, BioMed and Sciences), or University-wide.
The decision-making unit’s boundaries will normally be a highly relevant factor in reasonably drawing and limiting the extent of the pool. Therefore, whilst the type of work is the primary determinant of the extent of the pool, the configuration of the resource unit can be a secondary consideration.
It is clearly necessary to avoid continually destabilising the employment security, morale and motivation of all staff in the wider University community unnecessarily. Therefore, it is expected that the pool will be contained within the smallest appropriate unit of the University.
Following University restructuring it is opportune to revisit the broad parameters we use to help us define pools for redundancy. Under the old structure we had a mantra of “Department = minimum, Faculty = maximum” to decide how wide the pool should be from a ‘business unit’ perspective. A different 2-tier approach is now proposed:
(Provisional pending final agreement with Unions)
- Research only FTF Staff: minimum = PI’s team; maximum = Research Group/Division
- All other FTF Staff: minimum & maximum = School/Research Institute/University Services Department
- (1) initial pool via funding; type of work itself; activities performed; focus limited to the post at risk and the decision-making unit directly affected ie. School/RI/Service.
- (2) wider pool via same or similar work; interchangeable jobs/skills; qualities and capabilities necessary to perform the activities ie. skills, competences, knowledge, experience, qualifications; pool confined by job level or family, specialism or discipline, location, function or service coverage; appropriate to extend pool beyond School/RI/Service eg. To College, TVP territory, or University-wide?
6. Achieving a “fair” pool
To fairly determine the pool managers need to:
- consider the composition of the pool carefully;
- have acted with genuine motives when defining that pool;
- consider whether other staff are doing the same or similar work to the initially affected staff;
- consider whether the affected person’s job is interchangeable with those of others;
- consider whether the person’s inclusion in the pool is consistent with his/her previous position;
- seek to satisfy the “reasonableness” test in the choice of pool ie. does the choice of pool fall within the range of reasonable responses available to a reasonable employer in those circumstances;
- consult with staff and trade union representatives upon the composition of the pool before finalising it.
The crux is that the manager has considered the choice of the unit of selection with reasonable care and is able to justify the decision logically and objectively.