Every day brings news of more redundancies in both large and small firms. It’s timely to consider what to bear in mind when consulting with employees who are on furlough.
During the consultation process, you will have to talk to your employees and send them documents. Do they still have access to work email? If they don’t, or never had a work email, do you have their personal email addresses? Do you have a home/mobile telephone number?
You could post documents for those without access to a computer. Some people may have to read emailed documents on a smart phone. If so, consider formatting issues and what type of document to send.
In some cases an employee may be able to have a face to face meeting, for example if they are part-furloughed and working some of the time; or if they are furloughed, but live locally and if the workplace is safe and the meeting can be appropriately socially distanced.
If the employee is furloughed and it is not appropriate to meet face to face, it is acceptable to carry out individual consultation meetings by video call or by phone Check that the employee (and, where applicable, their companion) has access to a computer or smartphone.
As a rule, the companion will be drawn from the pool of colleagues or trade union representative, but where the employee is furloughed you may be willing to allow a family member to accompany the employee during the last stages of the formal consultation process. This may be allowed under your own policies and procedures or as a discretionary measure in these unusual circumstances, so check the wording of your policy. In practice, it will be difficult for you to ensure nobody else is in the room while holding the meeting remotely, especially if this is by phone rather than video call.
Plan and prepare for the following.
- Only the relevant parties should receive a request to attend a video call meeting. The platform for hosting the virtual meeting must be secure and compliant for data protection purposes.
- Ask the employee to attend the meeting in a private and quiet room where they will not be disturbed.
- Allow the employee to ask questions when necessary and confirm their understanding.
- Use online tools, such as screen sharing, to refer to documents.
- Take notes of the meeting and explain you will write after the meeting to confirm the discussion. The video meeting platform you’re using may allow you to record the meeting if you wish to do so. If you do record the meeting, advise the employee that you are recording it.
- In some cases, an employee will ask if he can record the meeting. You can agree this on the condition a copy of the recording is given to you. Keep your own notes too. Bear in mind, the employee may record the meeting, whether you like it or not. If you’re concerned about this start the meeting by asking the employee to confirm that they (or any companion) are not recording the meeting. Remind them that they do not have a right to record the meeting and that this may be viewed as a breach of trust and confidence as well as misconduct. A covert recording may be in breach of data protection legislation. However, if you approach the discussion reasonably, courteously and properly prepared, you have nothing to hide and too much fuss about it merely seems shifty.
- Allow the employee time to speak privately to their companion during the meeting.
The redundancy process is stressful so do what you can to make it more bearable. Carry out communications and consultation meetings fairly in recognition of the impact of present conditions and employees’ personal circumstances. Have a clear method through which employees can raise questions or discuss concerns.
You may be able to provide support by offering redundancy outplacement services and direct employees to useful websites and resources. If nothing else, keep in touch with them and check how they’re doing.
If you’re an employer with HR queries and problems, get in touch!
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2020 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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