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Things That Go Bump in The Workplace

Our office is slowly sprouting fluffy spiders …. Many businesses in Stony Stratford join in the Halloween fun and decorate their windows, us among them. This year we are going to decorate the office too. When I was a child I made pompoms winding coloured wool round two pieces of circular card. The results (suitably embellished) became rabbits, chicks, hat decorations – all sorts of things. It’s also a great way to keep a class of children quiet for an hour or so on a wet afternoon…. Well, last week we went back to our childhood roots and started making spiders. The first one I made looked like Animal (from the Muppets) with a hangover!

Halloween has become very popular in the UK. Next week small children will be dressing up and mugging all and sundry, shouting “trick or treat”. At this time of year people tell stories about things that go bump in the night.

And that that segues nicely into things which go bump in the workplace! We’re talking transferred redundancy (‘bumping’) and not mysterious incidents.

Redundancy is a form of dismissal. Redundancies can exist when an employee’s role no longer exists in whole or in part or in whole or in part at that place. Employees must be selected for redundancy in a fair way such as level of experience or capability to carry out the role. Employees must not be selected because of a protective characteristic such as age, gender or disability.

Throughout the redundancy process, the employer is obliged to consider whether or not it can offer the employee at risk of redundancy a suitable alternative employment, either within the organisation or an associated employer. This obligation may extend to considering roles that are not vacant as well. This is described to as ‘bumping’ or transferred redundancy.

This happens where an employee whose job is not redundant is dismissed to make way for an employee whose role has become redundant. Whilst bumping is considered to be a justifiable way of retaining valued staff while still decreasing headcounts it can still present traps. The emphasis is on causation i.e. was there a redundancy situation? If so, was the employee’s dismissal on account of that redundancy situation?

In the case of Lionel Leventhal Ltd v North, the tribunal held that Mr North, a senior editor was unfairly dismissed due in part to the employer failing to consider bumping a less senior employee and redeploying Mr North to the position. In 2003 Mr North’s employer ran into significant financial difficulties. The employer made a decision to dismiss Mr North on grounds of redundancy because he had earned the highest salary and carried out a role which the employer believed the company could manage without. The employer failed to consider making anyone else redundant. The employer also erroneously assumed that Mr North would not be interested in a less senior position and did not explore this with him.

The Tribunal found the dismissal to be unfair because bumping hadn’t been considered. On appeal the EAT identified a number of relevant factors to be taken into consideration by a tribunal when determining this matter.

  • Whether there is a vacancy.
  • How different the two jobs are.
  • Difference in remuneration between the two jobs.
  • Both employee’s length of service.
  • Qualifications of employees at risk of redundancy.

Bear in mind if you discuss bumping with an employee whose role is at risk, it is for the employee to decide whether he wants to be considered for a different, often more junior role. If he wishes to do so, put all the relevant people in a redundancy at risk pool, create a selection matrix and score in the usual way.

If the at risk employee is successful, he will be appointed in that more junior role at the rate for the job and the employee with the lowest score will be dismissed for redundancy.

We deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of HR. If you need help resolving redundancy and ‘bumping’ queries or any other HR issues, give us a call on 01908 262628.

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