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What Is a Redundancy Situation? Employment Appeal Tribunal Guidance

Identifying what is or is not a true redundancy situation can be no easy matter. That was certainly so in one case where what was described as a redundancy exercise resulted in an increase, rather than a reduction, in staff numbers.

The case concerned a man who was part of a company’s seven-strong customer improvement team (the CI team), the members of which were notified that they were at risk of redundancy. The CI team’s role was to be inherited by a team of eight who would also perform the task of improving customer experiences (the CI/CE team).

The man unsuccessfully applied to either lead or join the CI/CE team. He appealed and submitted a grievance, again without success, and failed to obtain an alternative role within the company. After a period on sick leave, he was dismissed on grounds of redundancy. He complained to an Employment Tribunal (ET), but his unfair dismissal claim was rejected.

Ruling on his challenge to that outcome, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the ET was entitled to reject the man’s primary case that the redundancy exercise was a sham designed to get rid of him and others. There was also no procedural unfairness in that he had been granted two internal appeals against his dismissal and the company had made genuine efforts to redeploy him.

However, the man also asserted that there was no true redundancy situation in that the roles performed by the CI team and the CI/CE team were essentially the same. He said that the company’s need for the type of services he performed had neither ceased nor diminished and that, in those circumstances, he could not have been made redundant.

The EAT noted that, even after finding that the redundancy exercise was undertaken in good faith and that the company genuinely believed that there was a redundancy situation, the ET was obliged to go on to consider whether a redundancy situation in fact arose. The ET had given no adequate consideration to that issue, having dealt with it in a single sentence. The man’s case was sent back to a differently constituted ET for a rehearing limited to the question of whether the reason for his dismissal amounted to a true redundancy situation.