I ask this because a Private Members’ Bill, sponsored by Lindsay Hoyle MP, is currently making its way through Parliament. Its aim is to increase the level of statutory redundancy pay given to employees with more than two years’ service from the current cap of £350 per week per complete year of service (or £525 per week for workers over 41) in to line with average earnings, as opposed to RPI with which it is currently linked. This would mean an increase in the cap from £350 to £500/750. The award is made up to a maximum of 20 years’ service. Over the years it has fallen behind inflation and means that the maximum an employee made redundant at the moment can receive (in the absence of a claim for unfair dismissal or an enhanced redundancy package offered by the employer) is a maximum sum of £7,000 (for those under 41 at dismissal) or £10,500 for those over 41 (and thus would have to be 61 at dismissal with 20 years service to receive it). In addition employees are entitled to be given their contractual, or statutory notice, and can be asked to work the notice, be put on garden leave for the duration or be paid in lieu. If an employee has less than two years service with an employer he/she is not entitled to any statutory redundancy payment, only to notice.
The Bill passed through its Second Reading last Friday but stands little chance of becoming law. The Government and the Tories are against it because of the additional burden it would place on hard-pressed employers. The issue is causing dissension in the Labour ranks with allegations of dirty tricks being made against government whips (see the BBC’s report of the 13th March) and angry denials from the government.
Business groups have said that the Bill threatens firms that are already struggling and may put them out of business. The effect of the increase would be to make the new maximum for workers under 41 from £10,000 to £15,000 for those with 20 years service over 41. They are significant increases but unlikely, in my view, to topple otherwise surviving businesses over the edge into insolvency. If it would then it seems probable that the business would be going under sooner or later anyway. It should be remembered as well that those are the maximum figures and comparatively few people will qualify for the maximums.
In reality, it means a bigger burden on the tax-payer because if the employer does become insolvent the employee will have to apply to the Redundancy Payments Office (aka the National Insurance Fund) for the payments.
Just to recap on that, the RPO pays out the following sums to employees left high and dry by their employer going bust;
1. Up to eight weeks wages – unpaid wages, contractual benefits like commission and bonus & overtime
2. Up to six weeks accrued holiday pay for the 12 months prior to insolvency
3. Notice monies – for statutory minimum not contractual notice periods
4. A basic award for unfair dismissal (calculated in the same way as for SRP)
In each case a week’s pay is capped at the statutory maximum – i.e the £350/525 discussed above that may (but probably won’t) be increased by Mr Hoyle’s Statutory Redundancy Payment (Amendment) Bill.
It’s a very difficult issue at a time when everyone is struggling. In the City most businesses pay out enhanced packages, perhaps based on one month’s salary per year, or maybe two weeks’ per year and if the Bill becomes law it will be academic for them, but certainly not for the many smaller businesses being crunched at the moment.