I work in HR for an SME. I have been on furlough for the last months. The company made redundancies in May/June time and work has taken a down turn so they are having to reduce costs. In September a new starter joined the company doing an Executive Assistant role full time. The only two people now remaining on furlough and now being put at risk of redundancy are me and another working mum. We both work part time. We could also have easily done the job of the new EA. I believe the tasks for my role are being carried out by someone else & there is still a need for a HR representative. However, I feel pushed out. Are the company at risk of discrimination because they are putting the only two part-timers at risk?
Your employer has said there is a reduced need for your role and your colleague’s role. If this is correct then a genuine redundancy situation exists. In order for any resulting redundancy to be fair, the company would also need to follow a fair process. This includes consulting with you about the proposed redundancy for a reasonable time (normally two weeks minimum). As part of that consultation, they must consider ways to avoid the proposed redundancy, such as freezing recruitment, pooling anyone doing the same or substantially the same role as you, potentially bumping the redundancy down to a more junior role and considering any alternative vacancies that may be available.
Pooling occurs where there are others doing the same or substantially the same duties as you (even if their job title is different). The business would score everyone in the pool using objective selection criteria and the person with the lowest score would then be provisionally selected for redundancy. Bumping occurs when the proposed redundancy for your role is “bumped” down to a more junior role and you would take that role. The person in the “bumped” role is made redundant.
If it is not possible to avoid the proposed redundancy, then the business should also consider whether suitable alternative vacancies exist for you within its business or the business of any associated companies.
If the business is treating you and your colleague differently because you work part time, that would be less favourable treatment and unlawful. In your email you mention only one full time person (the EA) and it does not appear they are doing comparable work to you, but there may be some overlap with your colleague’s work.
If there are other full-time staff who are doing comparable work to you and are not being treated in the same way, then this could be unlawful treatment. In respect of the EA, however, if there is an ongoing need for their role, a redundancy situation does not exist in relation to their role. The occurrence of a potential redundancy situation in October does not mean the business’ decision to hire the new EA last month was necessarily unreasonable or unfair.
However, I would question whether the business knew at that point that there was an actual or potential redundancy situation in respect of your role and that of your colleague and ought to have started consultation with you then. On the face of it, the EA role would probably not have been suitable alternative employment for either you or your colleague, but it might have been possible for you to agree to job share the role rather than being made redundant.
I recommend that you engage with the consultation process, ask them to provide clear rationale for the proposed redundancy, the process it has followed so far, why you have not been pooled with others doing the same duties (if relevant) and why the redundancy has not been bumped to the new EA.
I would also ask them also when they identified that a potential redundancy situation existed in relation to your role. If it was in September or around the time of hiring the new EA, ask them why they didn’t begin consultation then and/or offer that role to you. Ask the business how your duties will be performed without you; if there is an ongoing need, albeit limited for now, they should be giving serious consideration to using the government’s job support scheme instead of making you redundant. If the business does not engage with you about the situation, appeal the decision and take legal advice on pursuing this further through the employment tribunal process.