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I have been in my current part-time role for almost two years. When I started, my role was classified as digital comms, but I have taken on much more than this due to lack of resources in the team. In fact, I have many times offered to do more hours to help alleviate the situation, but this offer has never been taken up. I have just been told that there is now a need to increase the resource in the team by implementing a full-time generalist role of Communications Manager (basically what I’ve been doing but full time) and that my role is no longer required. Rather than asking me to increase my hours, I have been asked to apply for the new role and have been told that, if unsuccessful, I will be made redundant. Although I have been working to the best of my ability and made valuable contributions in the last two years, I’m aware that I don’t have some of the more generalist experience they’re looking for in this new role so I’m nervous that they’ll say I’m not suitable. Can they do that if I’ve basically been filling the role on a part-time basis for two years?
You have been very open in saying that you may not have the generalist experience that the company is looking for in the new full-time role, but an obvious question for them is why don’t they take on a part-time generalist Communications Manager to supplement the skills and experience that you already have? It would be difficult to believe that they have no need for digital communications in this digital age, but it may be that they have already tried to recruit a part-time generalist without any success.
They also seem to be taking the ‘full time only’ approach rather than considering job share or other flexible ways of working which would not indirectly discriminate against women and it is not clear from your question whether you would be able to move up to full time although you have offered to do more hours.
It might be that they have already considered the reasons why they need one person rather than two or a job share, but it is important for you to ask that question to understand what their thinking is. Are they simply making assumptions that it would not work, or are there genuine and practical reasons why one full-time person works best?
You can also ask them if they have considered training for you to help you with those areas where you do not have the experience, or perhaps using an outside agency for those areas and keeping you there to do the digital work and to be the liaison. If they do not have proper explanations for why they have not considered this then you might ask them whether this is really about them not wanting you in the role and if there are performance issues, why these have not been addressed.
If they still have the need the digital communications work to be done, but appoint a Communications Manager to do it, then this is technically not redundancy as the digital communications work still needs to be done. However, it could be another fair reason called ‘some other substantial reason’, namely a business reorganisation, although they would still be wise to follow a fair process of consultation with you and pay you statutory redundancy.
However, until they have answered the above questions to your satisfaction then they face potential claims for unfair dismissal (because business reorganisation is not the real reason for the change) and indirect sex discrimination because they are unable to justify why a full-time person is needed rather than two part-time employees or a job share and this disproportionately impacts women more than men.