There are times when a business must go through internal restructuring to become more efficient and competitive. Common motivations behind a restructuring include gaining access to better technology, streamlining business processes, or changing entire product lines.
Regardless of the details, the outcome of a restructuring usually includes some roles becoming ‘redundant’. Since the affected employees no longer have a place within the business, they can be consequently dismissed with proper compensation.
However, employment lawyers warn that redundancy should not be used as an excuse to fire problematic staff. Employers still need to make sure the redundancy is justified. Otherwise, terminated workers can challenge the dismissal and file a personal grievance claim—resulting in a big legal headache for the company.
Was it a Genuine Redundancy?
When an employee protests against being made redundant, a common argument is that they were actually let go because of other reasons, such as poor performance, age or just the manager's dislike of the employee. They have 90 days to raise an objection.
You can try to mediate with the former employee, but if an agreement can't be reached, the case will be taken to the Employment Court or the Employment Relations Authority. There, you will have to present evidence that it was a genuine redundancy brought about by restructuring.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to employment law. So how do you avoid these issues? Here are several tips.
1. Ask for volunteers – Some employees would be glad to volunteer for redundancy, as they may have already planned to look for jobs elsewhere. It's better that they are the one to leave instead of someone who still badly needs their job.
2. Give proper notice – Employees must receive reasonable notice before their dismissal. The length of this period depends on the employment contract, their position and seniority, and various other circumstances.
3. Handle the transition – The more amiable your parting, the less chance the employees will make trouble later. For instance, you can offer paid time off during the notice period for them to attend interviews or help them look for opportunities outside the company.
Again, the most important thing is to ensure that the redundancy is genuine. If you start advertising an open position very similar to the one your previous employee held, there's going to be trouble.