Is it legal to conduct a redundancy consultation via video link?

For most businesses, making redundancies at one point or another is inevitable.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, redundancies are more common than ever. That’s because business owners are forced to let more employees go to cope with lower demand and the winding down of the Government supports like the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

With social distancing requirements still in place, some companies considering redundancies are exploring the option of consulting with employees virtually. But what’s the process here, and is it even legal to conduct a redundancy consultation via video link?

What does the law say?

While this is somewhat of an unmapped area, there appears to be nothing in the redundancy legislation that would prevent redundancy consultations taking place by video link.

However, video consultations shouldn’t distract employers from ensuring that employees are consulted and fully appraised of the situation.

Conducting a consultancy meeting is important as it ensures the fairness of the redundancy process isn’t later called into question by an employee who loses their job as part of a restructure. So, any virtual consultation process should run in line with the principles of fair procedures to minimise the risk of a subsequent unfair dismissal claim.

How should I communicate with the employee?

When it comes to communication, there are three primary channels you may explore. These are email, telephone, and video link.

According to reports, video link is the best channel of communication in a situation such as a redundancy consultation. Although it can be a daunting process, it’s still the most personable option and can help reduce the anxiety that may build up during the process for both parties.

While face-to-face consultations are the usual go-to approach, virtual redundancies could become more commonplace for the foreseeable future.

Remember, you should follow a proper redundancy procedure regardless of the current coronavirus situation – or whether the employee is on a period of lay-off, annual leave, or family leave, etc.

What about alternatives to redundancy?

As part of an effective redundancy procedure, you should always explore the alternatives to redundancy. During the process, you should also allow employees to contribute suggestions. These may include:

  • Suspending recruitment.
  • Reducing overtime.
  • Wage cuts, bonus reductions.
  • Redeploying staff in other parts of the business.
  • Reducing sub-contracting and temporary contracts.
  • Lay-offs or short-time working.

These alternatives are important to consider. After all, employees may be willing to consider one if the other option is redundancy.

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