twitter facebook

Problematic Redundancy Consultation Timeframes

Published: 1st February, 2021

University of Leicester has ordinances – agreed with campus unions – to cover redundancies. In the present situation our employer is honouring these ordinances only in their breech. In all of the 8 departments/units, where colleagues are at risk, the timeline has been compressed, to the detriment of colleagues. The move is cynical in the extreme: it seems designed to exacerbate stress, uncertainty and fear.

If you are affected you may wish to request that individual consultation meetings are delayed.

The University and the campus unions, back in 2011, agreed on a set of processes and procedures which determine how redundancies should be handled within the University. This was entered into in good faith with the expectation that they should be followed.

However, following a week of collective consultation, our experiences are that the timings are far from as agreed.

Lets take, as an example, the redundancy timetable presented earlier in the week:

First Collective Consultation Meeting with Unions27 January 2021
First Collective Consultation Meeting Staff27 January 2021
First Individual Consultations MeetingsW/C 1 February 2021
Final provisional implementation date [i.e. termination via redundancy]31 July 2021

Please look at the dates and note the following issues:

  1. Length of time between first collective consultation and termination– 6 months and 4 days
  2. Length of time between first collective consultation and first individual consultations – 3 to 7 days

Now let’s examine some of the agreed university ordinance.

Redundancy Ordinance – University of Leicester

6. Collective Consultation (Multiple Redundancies)

6.1. Collective consultation will normally begin 7 months in advance of the first effective date of termination.

Point 1 above shows it is clearly just over 6 months – why are staff losing a month of the process?

6.2. Collective consultation will begin when the relevant manager (in consultation with HR) issue a written redundancy proposal document to the University’s recognised Trade Unions, in line with Section 188 of TULRCA 1992. An announcement to the affected staff will also be made by the relevant manager (in consultation with HR).

6.5. The relevant manager (in consultation with HR) will arrange a meeting with the Trade Unions to present and discuss the redundancy proposal. The meeting will normally take place as soon as possible after the release of the redundancy proposal, (approximately 7 months in advance of the first effective date of termination).

The University released the redundancy proposals to the campus unions, including UCU, around 15 minutes before a meeting commenced – hardly enough time to digest a very long and detailed document and for us to be in a position to enter into a reasonable discussion.

As this occurred just before the first collective consultation, it is approximately 6 months before the first effective date of termination rather than the 7 specified above.

6.7. After the meeting, the Trade Unions will review and consider the content of the meeting and the redundancy proposal, returning their views to management as soon as reasonably practicable (normally within 2 to 3 weeks).

6.8. On the receipt of the Trade Union comments, the relevant manager (in consultation with HR) will arrange a further meeting, as soon as possible, to discuss the proposed redundancies. The meeting will normally take place as soon as reasonably practicable (ideally no later than 6 months in advance of the first proposed redundancy dismissal).

Clearly an impossible timeframe – by the time UCU digests the redundancy business cases and feedback to the agreed timeframe of 2-3 weeks, UCU are not able to then have a further meeting to challenge the proposals 6 months before the redundancy dismissal.

7. Individual Consultation (Multiple Redundancies)

Notification of Meeting 1 (Multiple Redundancies)

7.2. The relevant manager (in consultation with HR) will normally write to the member of staff to begin individual consultation approximately 5 months in advance of the proposed redundancy dismissal date.

UCU’s and members’ experience this week is that staff were invited to individual consultations within minutes of the collective consultation meeting, and those meeting are planned to be held shortly, as outlined in 2) above.

Redundancy Policy

11.3. Where collective consultation is required, it must be completed before notice of dismissal is given to the affected staff. The law requires meaningful consultation. This means that alternative proposals or suggestions from staff (or their representatives) are considered carefully and taken into account, where possible.

UCU’s experience in these meetings were that managers were keen to suggest that they are open to ‘feedback’ on the proposals. They are rather less keen to explain that alternative proposals should be provided and the mechanism by which they are to be presented.

Fortunately staff are proving to be pro-active and self-organising to collectively challenge the often flawed business cases presented to them.

UCU, of course, will provide support to members throughout this process.

Members may notice that the timeframes contain the word ‘normally’ in the ordinance and policy, as is common in these documents. However, if the University would like to argue that ‘normal’ shouldn’t apply here then we need to know why; in what way are these ‘abnormal’ and how are all 8 equally ‘abnormal’. If the argument is that these are difficult times during a pandemic, then surely the process should be abnormally longer rather than shorter.

If you have been invited to an individual consultation meeting, but feel that you are (understandably) not yet prepared and need more time, Leicester UCU suggest that the following is sent in response to the invitation:

Dear <your line manager or whoever invited you to the first individual consultation>,
I am not refusing to attend the scheduled time for my individual consultation, but I have received advice from my trade union that suggests individual consultations at this moment in time are premature as S188 notifications are only being sent through to the trade unions each day this week along with the business cases.

The Ordinances, which are contractual refer to the legal requirement to carry out individual consultations, however, in the spirit of meaningful consultations as referred to in S188 and relevant case law, it would be inappropriate to seek my views at this moment in time before my trade union has had the opportunity to make representations through the redundancy formal consultation process.

Section 7.2 of the relevant Ordinance, refers to letters of invitation to individual consultation meetings within 5 months of the first proposed dismissal date; collective consultations to commence within 7 months of the first proposed dismissal date, given that the S188 has only commenced distribution this week, it would appear that time is allocated for meaningful consultation to commence prior to any individual consultation. That in turn would allow for individuals to have an informed and considered response in respect of individual circumstances and consultations.

It is our view that such meetings should for the time being be postponed and a schedule that conforms with section 7.2 be considered.
Yours, x