As the country eases itself out of lockdown, redundancies, fair selection and equality issues are just some of the difficult decisions facing employers affected by the pandemic as well as more nuanced health and safety issues around a return to work and working from home.
This has been a year like no other with the global pandemic taking its toll on industry and employment. Here in Ireland, employers who are still struggling to maintain their business may have to consider redundancies.
While this is a decision that is not taken lightly, experts on employment legislation, CC Solicitors, advise that a full understanding of the legal rights and implications of redundancies is essential for any employer tasked with common redundancy situations.
Colleen Cleary, founder of CC Solicitors, which is based in Dublin, is a leading expert on employment legislation and is in the midst of advising employers and employees affected by a decision to make a role redundant. She warned that all procedures must be conducted against a backdrop of fairness.
“Redundancy is a potentially fair reason for dismissal, but it may still give rise to claims for unfair dismissal if it is not a genuine redundancy situation or the employer does not follow a fair procedure when making an individual redundant,” she said.
“When carrying out individual redundancies, employers are expected to apply fair and objective methods of selection, consult with the affected employees for a reasonable period of time, and seek alternatives to redundancies such as redeployment.”
Cleary makes a valid point because getting a redundancy wrong can be an expensive business. Should an employee have any reason to question the thinking behind their redundancy, they could be entitled to claim unfair dismissal for which the maximum compensation is two years’ gross remuneration.
“In simple terms, a redundancy is a termination of employment not related to the individual, but rather their role,” she said. “There are two important elements which characterise a redundancy dismissal: impersonality, which means the redundancy is not about the individual, but rather the function and the fact that function/role is no longer required; and change. The change could be a restructure, a business closing completely or in a particular location.
“However, the most common redundancy situations we advise upon are where there is less work to do and therefore fewer employees required to do it, or the employer has decided to do the work in a different way, meaning fewer employees are required. In those cases, the employer needs to work out who to select for redundancy and how to ensure that selection is fair.”
CC Solicitors was established in 2009 by Cleary and has firmly set itself apart as a leading specialist on employment legislation. Cleary, an experienced litigator, leads a highly experienced partner-led team which also has a global focus through Innangard, a network and international alliance of employment law firms she set up in 2015. Cleary’s work is making all the right impressions with a nomination this year as a ‘Thought leader’ with Who’s Who Labour & Employment Law, an accolade she has already been twice recognised for.
“I am personally passionate about employment law and have always placed an emphasis on equality and diversity issues,” said Cleary. “Since 2015, I have been building up a very strong network of fellow employment lawyers internationally. We recently launched Innangard Executives, which is dedicated to advising senior employees, partners and founders on employment law.
“The challenges faced by senior executives today in a Covid-19 world require specialist advice. We recently hosted a podcast and discussion with our fellow members of the network on this topic”
CC Solicitors’ extensive work with senior executives has changed dramatically in recent months because of changes in how we work, including remote learning. Cleary said this has put additional strain on senior people who are under even more pressure to deliver in these challenging times.
“Senior executives and professionals are not immune to the difficulties facing employees because of the pandemic,” she said. “It is apparent that many are being asked to take significant pay cuts while at the same time manage the business and generate revenue often with reduced resources and less support. Emotionally and physically this is taking its toll and it makes sense to seek professional advice when facing decisions which may have long-term implications for your career and financial wellbeing.”
For expert advice on employment law and litigation, see ccsolicitors.ie. The firm also hosts a regular podcast under the CC Solicitors name on soundcloud.com