My wife reduced to three days a week after the birth of our son. About a year ago she had to change roles so that she could manage the workload and lost some of her management responsibilities. Due to childcare changes, she can now work full time. However, while we were on holiday recently one of the managers told an entire team that her job has become ‘at risk’. A week later she was informed that her part-time role + another full time role were becoming one role. She was told to reapply for her job to start full time, with no flexibility on her hours so drop-offs would be impossible, the salary was greatly reduced and they expected her to increase the amount of time our son was in nursery, which might not be possible. They also seemed to think that I should decrease my own working hours to look after our son to accommodate their demands. My wife has accepted redundancy from her employer. I feel that this company is using the ‘restructure making 1 + 1/2 roles into 1’ as a loophole to get rid of any part-time workers. The director has always been against part-time workers and there is a history of failing to put the needs of its working parents before the needs of the Company. My wife is very upset and feels she has been forced out of her job. I feel she was targeted specifically because she was a part-time working mum. Does she have a case against her employer?
I understand that your wife has recently been made redundant due to the amalgamation of two roles; a part-time role (which your wife was performing) and a full-time role. Your wife was invited to apply for the new role, which was a full-time role, but given that there was no flexibility within that role in terms of hours and start and finish times, your wife would not have been able to perform that role. This was because you were not able to make the necessary increased childcare arrangements that you would need for your son. On this basis your wife has accepted redundancy and you wonder whether she now has any course of action she can take against her employer as she is very disgruntled about the whole situation, feeling that her ex-employer has manufactured the situation to dismiss a part-time worker and that it has a history of failing to put the needs of its working parents before the needs of the Company.
For a dismissal to be fair, it has to be for a fair reason and a fair process has to have been followed. Redundancy is one of the potentially fair reasons for which an employer can dismiss an employee and an employer must be able to show that there has been a closure of the business, a closure of a workplace or a diminishing need for employees to do the available work. Your wife’s ex-employer must therefore show that there was a diminishing need for employees to do a certain type of work – i.e. there was a need to reduce the 1.5 role to one role. Assuming it can do this, it must then show that it behaved reasonably in choosing and applying the selection criteria, warning and consulting with affected employees and considering alternative work. From what you say, this is what your wife is unhappy about given that her team were informed that her role was at risk before she was and she feels that in any event the situation was manufactured to remove her, a part-time worker, from the business.
If your wife was selected for redundancy because she was a part-time worker then this may make the decision to make her redundant automatically unfair. Your wife may be able to show that she was made redundant for an automatically unfair reason – i.e. because she worked part time – if other full-time employees with similar jobs were not also considered for redundancy.
It is not entirely clear what you mean when you say your wife “accepted” the redundancy. If you mean that she decided not to dispute it and simply went along with the process, then she may still have the chance to appeal the employer’s decision to dismiss her on the grounds of redundancy. You should check the letter which confirms the decision to her. If she decided to accept redundancy – i.e. went for a voluntary redundancy, then it may be that she was not given the chance to appeal that decision and has not got the chance to do so now.
If she decides to appeal the decision to her employer, then she should do so without delay and confirm all of the reasons that she feels aggrieved by the decision to make her redundant. If she is out of time for an appeal, or the appeal is unsuccessful, your wife should consider contacting ACAS, the free conciliation service, who can give some advice and attempt to resolve the issue between your wife and her ex-employer in relation to your wife’s redundancy. Your wife has three months from the date of dismissal to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal. If ACAS is unable to bring about a resolution, and the period of conciliation effectively “stops the clock” in terms of the three month time limit, then your wife should seek advice from a solicitor without delay who can advise her on the prospects of success and Employment Tribunal procedure.
*Lucy Flynn assisted in answering this question.