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I was made redundant after 18 years with my employer. My redundancy letter yesterday stated that there is now a requirement for my role to be carried out full time so my part-time role is redundant. The problem seemed to start a year ago. I was working part time and easily managing my workload. Then suddenly they brought in a full-time employee to carry out a different role who I had to show what I do. When she was confident in the role they put me on furlough. When I returned from furlough I was told she now does my job and they were looking for alternative employment for me within the group. As nothing came up I was doing another role. When we came back in January I was then told I had to either go full time or take redundancy. Is this legal?
As a starting point, an employee with two or more years’ service has the right not to be unfairly dismissed by their employer. As you have 18 years’ service, you have the right not to be unfairly dismissed by your employer. To fairly dismiss an employee, there must be a fair reason for dismissal and a fair process must be followed.
With regard to redundancies, when an employer is considering making redundancies within the business, there are three main situations where this decision may arise. These are:
Closure of the business as a whole;
Closure of a particular workplace; or
Reduction in the requirement for employees to do work of a particular kind.
Given that your role has been moved from a part-time role to a full-time role, it is possible that this would not constitute a redundancy situation. However, we would need more detail to confirm whether this is by comparing your role to the new role in the wider context of your employer’s business.
If this is a redundancy situation, there is a process that your employer was legally required to follow before making you redundant. This includes identifying an appropriate “pool” for potential redundancies (even if this results in a pool of one), informing and consulting with the affected employee(s) and considering whether there is/are any alternatives to redundancy, which includes considering whether there is any suitable alternative role. The ‘suitability’ of an alternative job role tends to mean objective-related factors, such as pay, status, hours and location.
It does not appear your employer followed any fair or proper process before making you redundant. It is, therefore, possible that your dismissal could be deemed unfair on procedural grounds. Further, if this is not a redundancy situation, your employer may also fail to establish that they had a fair reason to dismiss you, which, as stated above, is the other element of the legal test for unfair dismissal.
The fact that your employer brought in a full-time employee to carry out the same role as you (and the fact that they asked you to show her how to do your job) before your dismissal gives further cause for concern, as it appears that the decision to terminate may have been pre-determined.
Given your reason for not being able to fulfil a full-time role (i.e. childcare), there are additional claims that may be available to you, including a potential sex discrimination claim.
On the basis of the information you have provided, there are prima facie grounds to pursue one or more claims against your employer in an Employment Tribunal. We would urge you to take further legal advice without delay, as employment tribunal time limits are extremely strict; for example, a claim for unfair dismissal must be issued within three months less one day from the date of dismissal. If you are not considering issuing tribunal proceedings against your employer, we would still recommend that you take legal advice as there will be other avenues available to you.
*Sophie Wahba is a solicitor in the employment law team at Wright Hassall. Sophie advises both individuals and businesses on a range of contentious and non-contentious employment law issues. Sophie always takes a pragmatic, transparent and forward-thinking approach to achieve the best possible outcome for her clients.