twitter facebook

Statement: Employment Tribunals

Published: 11th March, 2024

Leicester UCU celebrates last week’s ruling from an Employment Tribunal, that three former colleagues, David Harvie, Geoffrey Lightfoot and Simon Lilley, were unfairly dismissed by the University of Leicester. The three were among the victims, within the School of Business (ULSB), of the “Shaping for Excellence” redundancy programme. The case follows an earlier Tribunal ruling that a staff member in English was also unfairly dismissed during this redundancy programme.

The tribunal that heard the case from ULSB ruled that in choosing those in scope for redundancy, “it was not clear how that initial selection had been carried out… This did not help in considering whether a fair process had been adopted and that the decision to dismiss was within the range of reasonable response.”

According to reporting by the Times Higher Education, the University were unable to supply emails or notes from meetings of senior leaders setting out how selection took place. According to Simon Lilley, quoted in the same publication, the University failed to implement “the simplest basics of redundancy law… These are experienced organisations with large budgets and professional HR functions. The bar for making somebody legally redundant in the UK is so low that if you can’t get over that, you really are not fit for the task you are employed to do.”

These points should not have come as a surprise to University management. They were made repeatedly by Leicester UCU in its campaign against the redundancies. The ruling vindicates both the former ULSB staff and our union branch. It also raises urgent questions that we will put to senior management in the coming days:

  • Will the University now offer to compensate and reinstate all those made redundant in ULSB, which includes six other former staff members in addition to the three involved in this tribunal case?
  • Does the University intend to apologise to all those placed at risk of redundancy in ULSB—and indeed to all those caught up in the “Shaping for Excellence” debacle across the University?
  • How much of the University’s money was wasted contesting this case, which has simply caused further reputational damage to the University?
  • Members of UCU took three days of strike action to prevent the University making redundancies including these three that have now been judged unfair. Will the University return the pay it deducted from UCU members who took this action?
  • Key figures in this case, including two of the three managers who enacted the selection process in ULSB or who defended it in consultation meetings, have since been promoted to more senior leadership positions within the University. Given their role in unfairly dismissing these former colleagues, will those promotions now be reviewed?
  • What have senior HR staff learnt from this process about selection criteria in redundancy cases?

The “Shaping for Excellence” programme was a hugely distressing episode for many staff across the University. It has also been a disaster in terms of the University’s reputation as an employer. Hopefully, nothing of its kind is ever repeated. Leicester UCU remains committed to fighting to protect and defend all our members, and to oppose compulsory redundancies.