Parting Glances

Employment Law Training Suggests Employers Offer Alternative Jobs Before Redundancies

Employers facing a round of tough redundancies should consider offering staff alternative jobs instead.

In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, some employers may well find they face tough decisions, with the harsh reality being that they have no option but to make some of their workers redundant.

This is obviously a difficult situation, but one which more and more companies are faced with as the economy struggles to cope on the verge of a possible recession.

But have you considered all the options – don’t just jump in straight away and take the drastic step of axing staff without exploring every other possible approach.

Could you for instance minimise the impact of your difficult position by finding alternative roles for those staff within your organisation instead? It may take time to work this out and solve the jigsaw puzzle of moving people around between different departments, but it could be well worth the patience and effort.

This approach though may seem to be the perfect solution, and could save you from the dreaded redundancy announcement.

But employers need to make sure they stay on the right side of the Employment Rights Act 1996 when it comes to managing the process.

You don’t want to find that simply by trying to help your employees, you are contravening the rules and getting your company into trouble.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has also set out new guidelines to explain how you should manage the offer of an alternative job and there are definitely pitfalls you need to avoid.

Employers should offer the person a trial period in the new potential job, usually four weeks is the right kind of timescale as it will give you, and them, the chance to carefully assess whether it’s a suitable move.

Communicate clearly to the employees involved how the trial period for an alternative job will operate, right from the start – don’t leave them in any doubt about where they stand.

Ensure they know that if they want to turn down the new job, they must do it within the four-week period, because if they don’t, and the four-week deadline passes without a formal decision, they could forfeit their right to a statutory redundancy payment.

Make sure too that any proposed alternative employment is actually suitable for the employee involved, and not just a position where you happen to have a vacancy.

Offering your staff a job which you know will be beyond their skills or totally out of their remit could put you at risk of an unfair dismissal claim.

It’s completely understandable that bosses should want to try to help their staff, particularly if they’ve been with your company a long time, but make sure you’re operating within the guidelines, and that an alternative job offer really is appropriate.

You don’t want to make a difficult situation even worse by raising their hopes of avoiding the axe with a possible new job offer, only to find that it’s not right for you or them, and they are faced with being made redundant after all.