It’s Christmas – I’m being made redundant!

20 11 2008

This, sadly, isn’t an uncommon complaint.  There are some Scrooge like employers out there who like to extend the festive spirit by handing out the P45 on Christmas Eve and they will have been encouraged in this practice by comments made in Personnel Today (a very good HR and employment law website and magazine) by an alleged “legal expert” from a law firm in Cheshire, advising employers that Christmas is the best time to make people redundant. 

He is reported as saying “I would actually recommend that people who may be a nuisance or disruptive to a business are actually told they’ve lost their job as close to Christmas as possible”.  Nice guy.  He justified this view by saying it would be good for cashflow apparently on the basis that they wouldn’t then need to  make a lump sum payment in lieu of notice (why?) hjhjand would get the unpleasantness out of the way so that everyone could start the New Year in a positive frame of mind.  Presumably his management philosophy is also of “the beatings will continue until morale improves” mindset.

His advice is, of course, complete nonsense.  If his comments have been correctly reported (always a big if) it shows a complete failure to understand the basics of employment law.  The statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures apply to individual redundancies – although they are being repealed next April they are still in force this Christmas and any employer deciding to get rid of an employee (especially if they are “difficult” or “disruptive”) on Christmas Eve is going to have to ride roughshod over those procedures to achieve the aim of getting that employee out by the New Year.  A claim for unfair dismissal or discrimination is the likely result.  Until April 2009 an Employment Tribunal retains the power to increase an award to an employee by up to 50% where there has been a failure to follow the correct procedure (which, very briefly is: invitation to a meeting, full discussion of the need for redundancy, followed by consultation, followed by decision and right of appeal)  and I suspect that most Employment Tribunals faced with an employer that they judge to have unfairly dismissed an employee on Christmas Eve are likely to want to impose a  50% increase for failure to follow the process. 

It also seems ridiculous to me that axing staff so soon to Christmas is going to improve morale; it won’t, it will merely worry the remaining staff that they will be the next candidates for the same treatment.  I’m just glad I don’t work for him.

The correct way to deal with disruptive staff (whatever that means) is via the disciplinary procedures and by proactive management – there may be a good reason why difficult staff are being “disruptive”; perhaps the employer should investigate the underlying issues?

The only reason I can think for his comments is that he is trying to raise a storm and thus get free publicity.  I’m not going to fall into that trap, which is why I haven’t named him here. 

If you want to read more about it, go to www.personneltoday.com

There will, undoubtedly be Christmas redundancies, there always are, especially in the financial services sector.  If your job is or comes under threat and you want advice on your legal rights, give me a call on 0207 464 8433 or email me at michaelscutt@dalelangley.co.uk

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