Redundancy one month into furlough

Evening all
My shambles of an employer has sent us notice that they are starting consultation for redundancies.
We were put on furlough in late March, and we've only had one furlough payday so far due to the date our wages come in.
Currently due to a drop in workload, my job is being carried out by call centre staff in the Phillipines.
Reasons given for the redundancy were that they "believe there will be permanent damage to our business due to changes in working practices and social habits as a result of the pandemic". 

(We're a posher version of a minicab company basically, along the lines of Addison Lee, so of course we're a lot quieter in lockdown due to lack of punters, and also our drivers not being classed as critical workers, which in turn means they don't pay to drive with us as they shouldnt be officially working anyway. However, the industry will clearly kick back off once lockdown measures start to be adjusted and more people come back onto the streets.)


They've also sent us a letter asking if anyone would like to apply for voluntary redundancy (which we aren't committed to accepting) and this is where my first query is - i've had nearly 7 years service, so would be entitled to a few quid in normal redundancy, and i presume more if they accepted me on voluntary. If i was to say i was interested in voluntary, and THEY declined me, can they still get rid of me using the traditional redundancy process - in my head, i assume they can, i just can't get the logic where they can refuse me voluntary, but then get rid by normal means later when it can only be a few quid difference.  
My suspicion is that everyone in my department is up for the chop as our roles can be bluffed by our phillipines call centre, and the number of redundancies mentioned is the exact number in our dept - if my role still exists when i've gone albeit being carried out by cheaper staff abroad, is the redundancy still legit ?  I've not been made redundant for near 20 years so can't remember what happened back then..

Apologies for the long rambling message - hopefully won't have put anyone off reading! Any pointers much appreciated.
Thanks




Comments

  • cloudwalker_3
    cloudwalker_3 Posts: 52
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    edited 8 May 2020 at 7:54AM
    It is a bit rambling Tom, but given the situation that you're in, I think that's perfectly understandable.

    For what it's worth, I'm a Unite union rep with several years experience so I know some of the employment law territory here pretty well. I'm not sure if you're in a union or not at the moment. At this stage, it's too late for you to join one, although for other people who might be reading this and worrying about employment and the future if you're not a member of a union, join one!

    Unions are essentially mutual protection societies and at times like this, having a national union in your corner to defend your employment rights is really important, especially if your employer attempts to make you redundant, break rules or act unscrupulously towards you. This become even more true if you need to take the employer to a tribunal or to court because the union will pick up the legal fees.

    In terms of the situation, generally, and to be absolutely clear, you can be redundant while on furlough. However, it's important to note that the whole point of the government furlough scheme was to enable employers not to have to lay people off.

    Having said this, it is possible that some employers will conclude, during the furlough period, that they need to make redundancies for the long-term survival of the business and I suspect this is why your employer has told you that they, "believe there will be permanent damage to our business due to changes in working practices and social habits as a result of the pandemic".

    If the reality is that they're planning to streamline the business by outsourcing to the Philippines call centre, they can, probably, get away with it if they're clever and the workplace in non-unionised, sadly.

    Assuming, in the first instance, that they make the UK staff redundant and then, later on, say after the pandemic has eased, engage the services of the Philippines call centre staff, then as long as the roles are substantially different (and if they're doing your job and that of a call centre worker, the employer could argue that they are), they're safe. If there is a union in place, this is exactly the kind of stuff they should be negotiating on.

    And its also worth mentioning that the HMRC can, and given the pandemic, probably will, audit employers furlough claims and this will also probably lead them to look (albeit briefly) at any connected redundancies to make sure that due process has occurred.

    In terms of the voluntary/compulsory question, if you offer yourself up as a volunteer for redundancy, your employer does not have to give you this option, although if they're attempting to do the thing in a civilised way, and your job won't physically exist after the process has concluded, I'd find this surprising.

    If you do have a union in your workplace the best first step is to discuss this with them because, as the employer must inform and consult about any redundancies and carry out a fair process*, they should be involved and can negotiate on your behalf in this respect. As a union rep, if I was in this situation normally, I'd be looking to get a better deal for anyone taking the voluntary route, although given the fiscal pressures on businesses during the pandemic this might not be physically possible right now.

    To answer the follow-on question, if they do turn you down as a volunteer, they can still choose to include you later on as a person and/or within a group of people that they choose to make compulsorily redundant.

    Because you're got nearly seven years employment this will apply to you, but (for others who might read this), If you're an employee with over two complete continuous years of service and the employer doesn't carry out a fair process, you may have a claim for unfair dismissal. If this does happen you must take action within three months. Again, if you're in a union, they can advise you on this.

    In terms of what you'll get as statutory redundancy pay, this is based on an employee’s age and length of employment and is counted back from the date of actual dismissal (in effect the last day you were actually employed, not necessarily the last day that you were in the workplace or that you did physical work).

    Employees get:
    One and a half weeks’ pay for each full year of employment after their 41st birthday
    One week’s pay for each full year of employment after their 22nd birthday
    Half a week’s pay for each full year of employment up to their 22nd birthday
    Length of service is capped at 20 years and weekly pay is capped at £538.
    The maximum amount of statutory redundancy pay is £16,140.

    I hope this is all helpful.

    If you need more info, Here are some links:
    Coronavirus Work Rights (Unite)


    *A last point: Where an employer proposes making more than 20 employees redundant within a 90-day period, there should also be a period of collective consultation, in addition to the individual employee consultations.

    .
    Michael

    When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
    When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.
    -- Dom Helder Camara
  • tom_154
    tom_154 Posts: 24
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    Thanks for the in depth reply - that's incredibly helpful and i appreciate the time you've taken to go through all that. 
    I am actually with a union, the GMB, and joined them a few years ago when my company first engaged with the Phillipines call centre to do some basic call handling.

    As it's just a personal membership with the union i have, they've advised i wait to see if i am one of those shortlisted to be made redundant at which point they would apparently step in to assist. Do they have to disclose the selection criteria that they use for the narrowing down process or would that only come out if i was to take it further ?

    Our cut off for applying for voluntary is on the 12th so am going to make a decision in the next day as to whether apply for that and see what they offer and go from there. The annoying thing is i don't want to lose my job at all as i feel settled but hey ho.

    With tonight's government guidance re people being advised to avoid public transport but to go back to work if they can, it's only making me feel that even more than ever the reason they have given is just an excuse, as if anything, we are going to be busier as being a private hire firm so would snap up many people shying away from public transport. If the reasons they gave on my letter are now patently untrue do they have to give a new "reason" as such or are they fine to just stick with their original wording ?


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