Redundancy – avoiding legal pitfalls when it comes to the crunch

POPCORN – a firm favourite of film fans and serial snackers.

Much of the UK’s popcorn is currently produced at KP Foods’ factories in Barnsley and in Pontefract helping UK sales to explode by more than 170% in the last five years.

Though, Yorkshire’s popcorn landscape is set to change after the brand announced plans to close its plant in Barnsley and to concentrate its production in Pontefract.

This of course puts approximately 90 South Yorkshire workers at risk of redundancy and with that can come a load of legal pitfalls.

Employment law is a complex and ever-changing environment, notorious for costly errors. Specialist legal advice is a key part of ensuring that the redundancy process is carried out fairly and correctly.

There are many strands to the redundancy process which employers must follow closely to avoid falling foul of a raft of employment law regulations such as:

· There needs to be a redundancy situation.

· The employees who are likely to be affected by the redundancy need to be identified.

· The employer should identify which individuals will be selected for redundancy. Those individuals at management level who are designated to select individuals for redundancy should be familiar with the work, skills, and qualifications of the employees who could be made redundant.

· A selection criteria which must be transparent and objective should be drawn up for those employees who may be made redundant, alongside a selection pool of affected employees carrying out similar work.

· Once the selection criteria have been completed and the pool of employees have been identified, the employer should undertake the selection process and invite each employee to an individual meeting to discuss whether or not the employee has been provisionally selected for redundancy. If an employee has been provisionally selected for redundancy, there is a real possibility that the employee will be made redundant.

· Both the employee and employer will enter into a period of consultation so that the employee is allowed time to reflect on their provisional selection.

· The employer must meet with the employee individually at least once before the final redundancy decision is made. At this meeting the following should be discussed:

o why they need to make redundancies

o why the employer is considering the employee for redundancy

o what other jobs are available

o any questions the employee has about what happens next

· The meeting is a chance for the employee to explain why they shouldn’t be made redundant and if they think the employer is not following a fair process or if the employee has been chosen unfairly, this is a good time to raise such concerns.

· The employer may allow the employee to bring someone to the redundancy meetings, for example someone from a union or the HR department. From an employee’s point of view, it can be helpful to have someone there to take notes and provide support. If this isn’t mentioned in the redundancy process, employees should ask their employer if they can bring someone.

· The final redundancy decision will either be confirmed, or the employee will be told that their job is safe. If redundancy is confirmed, the employee will be informed of their redundancy pay together with other termination payments and arrangements and in doing so the employee may be asked to enter into a settlement agreement.

· There is no statutory right to be able to appeal redundancy. However, if the employer has a contractual dismissal policy in place which provides for an appeal, this should be followed.

Our employment law team, based at Leeds, Harrogate, and Pontefract – the UK’s popcorn capital itself – has vast experience supporting both employers and employees when a redundancy situation presents, and offers tailored legal advice.

If the KP Foods (“the company”) proposal goes ahead, it is anticipated that 31 roles could be made available at Pontefract as likely mitigation for Barnsley colleagues which is a kernel of good news.

The company has also pledged to work with impacted employees to place them into suitable roles at Pontefract or where opportunities become available at other KP sites and as in all good movies, we await to see how the end of this particular storyline is played out.

Whether you are an employee or an employer, should you have any questions or concerns regarding redundancy, or any other employment law-related issues, please do not hesitate to contact this article’s author, Solicitor Lazuna Ullah, or a member of our Employment Law team here at Milners on 0113 245 0852 or email us at hello@milnerslaw

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