Can my employer make me redundant then seek to rehire me?

I have been with my employer for several years. I was one of two marketing officers, but my colleague recently left and was replaced with a Head of Marketing and her role was made redundant. We had been told to use the job titles marketing “manager” on an informal basis to help when communicating with external clients/suppliers etc. My manager is claiming that that title may be questioned. I work part time. This wasn’t a problem until they made the other officer post redundant after my colleague left, but now there is too much work for just me to do part time. I am totally convinced that they are trying to get me renamed as a marketing manager so that they can make me redundant as a part time “manager” on the salary I’m on and then create a full time “officer” post on a lower level salary. Can they do this?

judge's gavel against a block titled employment

 

Firstly, over time where an individual has worked particular duties under a particular job title, irrespective of whether or not this is written down, an individual’s terms and conditions can evolve over time by way of custom and practice. To assess whether you have in essence been working under the job title of marketing manager to the extent that it has become part of your contractual terms, I would need to assess what if any communication has been confirmed at any stage and also how regularly you have used this title.  Your entitlement to the salary you have been paid does not appear to be in dispute; for example, the Company are not arguing that you have been paid more in error. Therefore, your current salary remains your pay entitlement in line with your contractual terms and if they were to look to restructure and change this, they would need to go through a proper consultation process and draw up an appropriate sound business reason/case for seeking to change this.

Secondly, with regards to your workload, it sounds as though there is too much work to do for the hours that you are working and there could be an argument that the other officer’s role was not genuinely redundant. This is something your line manager would need to address to ensure that you are not working excessive hours.  It may be that they should explore the option of recruiting another part-time officer or at least authorise you to work paid overtime for any weeks you might be able to increase your hours. I appreciate though that the desirability of such options will depend on your personal circumstances, for example, any childcare commitments, as you may not be able to work any extra hours.  It is important to discuss your workload concerns with your line manager to ensure the build-up of an excessive workload does not over time have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing.

Thirdly, the renaming of your role in itself would not on the information available appear to create a potential redundancy situation for you.  However, this, of course, does not necessarily stop an employer from trying to give the “appearance” of a redundancy situation. I would want to explore further who has indicated this or what has been said to make you think that the Company have an overall plan to take such steps.  If the Company did seek to go down a redundancy route, they would need to again conduct a thorough consultation process with you and as part of that process, you should be given the opportunity to comment on any business proposals or changes they are presenting. To establish a genuine redundancy situation, an employer needs to show that there has been a reduced requirement of work of a particular kind at your site/work location. It sounds as though there is not a reduced requirement for work in your department at present, given there appears to be too much work for those currently in that team. Therefore, the Company may struggle to argue a business case for redundancy and even if they seek to try to explain it as a restructure/reorganisation, you sound as though you would have reasonable argument to suggest that your work will continue to be the same pre and post any “official” change to your job title.

From a practical point of view you may wish to simply sit and wait and see which moves the Company decide to make. If they do seek to take the redundancy consultation route, you should take more bespoke advice as the types of claims you could have would depend on the circumstances at that time. The types of claims we would want to assess would be whether or not there is a genuine and fair redundancy situation (which as I say on the face of it may be difficult for them to argue due to work volumes). If they went ahead with redundancy, the question would then be whether you have been fairly selected for redundancy and if so whether any suitable alternative or alternative positions are available for you to move into within the business, before they make any decision to dismiss you.

In short, your employer can attempt to do what you are suspecting, but on the information available this would be risky for them. Employers can sometimes decide to completely ignore best practice and appropriate procedures and simply dismiss employees, but that would give rise to a claim situation, which may be a risk they do not wish to take. You may wish to speak with your line manager about your concerns at present (at least in respect of your excessive workload), to ensure you understand more clearly what their intentions are at this stage. She may be unwilling to reveal any future plans to you, but it may prove useful to have a conversation with her about your high workload and follow this up to confirm your discussion in an email.  This will then create a paper trail/record that your workload is not reducing (quite the opposite) and may help to question any later redundancy business case the Company try to put forward suggesting work has diminished.

If you are dismissed by reason of redundancy at this stage, dependent upon whether there are any alternative roles available and how strong the Company’s business case was, you may have a claim for unfair dismissal, notice pay and accrued untaken holiday pay (unless they pay you this as part of the dismissal process) and, of course, statutory redundancy pay due to the fact that you have over two years’ service.  I would also want to explore if there were any angles to claim sex discrimination or less favourable treatment due to being part time, but we would need to explore this in much more detail to assess the strengths of any such claims.

To provide more bespoke advice on this situation we would require further factual details, but trust that the above general advice is of assistance.

*Helen Harradine assisted in answering this question.



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