'Incompetent redundancy process' led to unfair dismissal

Choosing candidates for redundancy is a complicated process requiring a detailed knowledge of employment law.

If the correct procedures are not carried out, employers could face costly claims of unfair dismissal, as happened in a recent case before the Employment Tribunal.

It involved saleswoman Pauline Cassidy who worked for Quest Vitamins, based in Hereford. In 2016, at the age of 63, she and two younger colleagues faced the threat of redundancy following a downturn in business.

The company’s HR director had already been made redundant, so the selection process was handled by the company accountant, Hannah Cross, and sales manager, Barney de Beer. Neither had any significant knowledge or experience of employment law or redundancy procedures.

This led to a series of errors. In June 2016, de Beer held a consultation meeting with two of Cassidy’s younger colleagues without her knowledge, even though she had asked to be kept informed of such developments.

The two younger colleagues agreed to a job share on reduced hours, which averted the threat of them being made redundant. This happened before any consultation was held with Cassidy.

When her consultation did take place, it was held in a hotel foyer, which made her feel uncomfortable. The tribunal judge found that this might have made it more difficult for her to make her case.

During that meeting, de Beer did not offer her the option to go to other sales areas or tell her that an unwillingness to travel might harm her case.

The tribunal found that Cassidy’s subsequent redundancy amounted to unfair dismissal. It held that de Beer’s failure to inform her of her options relating to travel resulted in a “procedural and substantive unfairness”. 

It also described Hannah Cross as dealing with the process in a “ham-fisted” way.

The judge said: “On balance…the procedural deficiencies were down to the incompetence of Hannah Cross and inexperience of Barney de Beer.

“Hannah Cross was not a qualified HR professional; she was an accountant who had stepped into the breach and had little knowledge of HR matters and redundancy.

“It was evident from (her) evidence before the tribunal that she was confused by the process and relied heavily on external advice.” 

Compensation was agreed between Cassidy and the company in an out-of-court settlement.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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