Do you want to get advice on your key HR and organisational challenges directly from the experts?
With barrister qualifications, CIPD membership, mediation accreditation, long and varied international HR experience and even an ex-Garda on our team, Insight HR’s highly respected consultants have a diverse skill set not often found in internal HR departments.
And with Insight HR, your investment will never just be about fixing a problem or developing a strategy. Instead, our partnership approach arms teams with the knowledge they need to make better decisions. We leave HR teams better informed and more confident in their abilities to resolve future HR issues.
So, staying true to our word, each month we’ll bring you an interview with various members of our team on the areas they specialise in, and the challenges you need support on, the most.
This month, let’s talk redundancies, with Insight HR Founder & Managing Director, Mary Cullen.
P.S. We’ve also got a very useful webinar coming up on this exact topic, on Wednesday 27th September at 11:15. Register here and get it in the diary.
But for now, let’s hear what Mary had to say!
What’s the legal background to redundancies in Ireland? What are the relevant laws and legislation covering this?
Mary: Redundancies in Ireland are governed by various laws and regulations, ensuring that the process is fair and transparent. The primary ones to be aware of include the Redundancy Payments Act 1967-2014 and the Protection of Employment Act 1977-2014. These laws outline the rights and entitlements of both employers and employees during redundancy processes. For example, they specify that employees with at least two years of continuous service are entitled to redundancy payments.
The Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 – 2016 is also important. The purpose of the Acts is to protect employees from being unfairly dismissed from their employment by laying down criteria by which dismissals are to be judged unfair, and by providing an adjudication system and redress for an employee whose dismissal has been found to be unfair.
We always recommend keeping abreast of case law too, as quite often, this gives a great and arguably deeper insight into how decisions are made and how judgements can shape and guide employers through this topic.
Is there a set process to managing redundancies? Or at the very least, a best practice?
Mary: While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and while there are significant differences between a collective redundancy and a non-collective redundancy, there are certainly some important best practices to follow when managing redundancies here in Ireland.
It’s crucial to start by notifying and consulting with affected employees, providing clear reasons for the redundancy, and exploring alternative options such as redeployment, reduced working hours, salary and/or benefit reductions, layoffs, etc. A fair selection process based on objective criteria and consultation periods are also crucial elements. Always document everything to ensure transparency and compliance with relevant laws.
These key steps ensure that not only do you have a clear and efficient process for both the management representatives and the affected employees, but also ensures you have the relevant documentation and procedures to back the process up should you face any challenge further down the line.
Are there any key differences to note between collective and individual redundancies, from a legal and procedural perspective?
Mary: Absolutely. Collective redundancies involve multiple employees and, as such, require additional legal obligations. For instance, in cases of collective redundancies, employers must notify the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation and consult with employee representatives for a mandatory 30 day period.
An employer is prohibited from issuing any notice of redundancy during the mandatory employee information and consultation period (required by the l977 Act) and until 30 days have elapsed from the date on which the Minister has been notified. An attempt to effect collective redundancies in that period will be an offence and render the employer liable to a fine of €3,000, unless the employer can show substantial business reasons for non-compliance, e.g. bankruptcy, insolvency or court order.
On the other hand, individual redundancies follow a simpler process tailored to the specific employee, but they still require adherence to fundamental principles of fairness, consultation, and documentation. We recommend a shorter two week consultation process in these circumstances but make sure you understand clearly what constitutes a collective redundancy before you start any redundancy process. For example, if you are considering making 5 employees redundant and you employ 21-49 employees, you should follow the process for collective redundancies. In computing the number employed in a business, look at the average number of employees in the 12 months preceding the date on which the first dismissal takes effect.
Either way, these are tough times for those facing the prospect of losing their jobs, so the one crucial commonality between the two is the human element!
What are “alternative options to redundancy”?
Mary: Alternative options to redundancy are measures that employers can explore to avoid or minimise job losses. These may include redeployment to other roles, reduced working hours, temporary layoffs, career breaks, early retirement and salary/benefit reductions.
Providing these options is considered best practice and demonstrates a commitment to your employees’ well-being. And quite frankly, it makes sense for all involved, especially if alternative roles are filled.
It can also help maintain a positive workplace culture during challenging times.
What’s the cost of getting this wrong?
Mary: The costs of mishandling redundancy processes can be significant. If an employee believes they were unfairly treated during a redundancy, they may file an unfair dismissal claim, which can result in financial penalties for the employer. Moreover, a poorly managed redundancy process can lead to reputational damage and decreased employee morale, potentially affecting productivity and business performance.
In contrast, properly managed redundancies can help protect your business’s reputation and maintain trust among your workforce. Particularly in businesses where a section of the workforce is being made redundant, while others are not, those not affected will still have empathy and even levels of friendship with those who may be leaving the business. Care and communication is key, for everyone in the organisation.
Although these things happen and are usually a last resort or necessity, how important is it to recognize that employees will need empathy and support throughout this process?
Mary: As touched upon previously, you’re correct – empathy and support are of paramount importance during redundancy processes. It’s crucial to remember that employees facing redundancy are going through a challenging and often emotional period. Recognising their feelings and offering support, both emotionally and practically, can make a significant difference. It also plays a crucial role in maintaining a positive workplace culture, even when difficult decisions have to be made. Remember nobody is going to be happy about a redundancy process and this can feel like an organisational and personal crisis for those affected, their colleagues and even the managers tasked with managing the process, irrespective of the logic for the reduction in workforce.
Any guidance on the communication side of things – are there set foundations, a set process, or any best practice?
Mary: Communication is a cornerstone of effective redundancy management. Having a clear and compassionate communication plan in place is essential. This plan will include formal notification, one-on-one meetings with affected employees or their representatives, group sessions to address common concerns, and written notices outlining the reasons for redundancy and the support available and the notification that an employee’s role has been selected for redundancy.
Actively listen to employees’ concerns and provide honest, transparent answers. Clear, empathetic communication can help reduce anxiety and uncertainty during this challenging time. Employees are sensitive to the language you use, so great care must be taken to get the messaging right at all stages of the process, from the initial announcement and notifying an employee that their role is at risk of redundancy right through to notifying an employee that their role has been selected for redundancy.
How difficult can it be to maintain a positive culture after collective redundancies? And how can we do that?
Mary: Maintaining a positive workplace culture after collective redundancies is undoubtedly challenging, but it’s not impossible. It requires deliberate efforts to rebuild trust and morale among remaining employees. Openly communicate the reasons behind the redundancies and the steps being taken to ensure the organisation’s stability. Encourage team cohesion and collaboration, celebrate successes, and demonstrate your commitment to a brighter future. Providing opportunities for employees to provide feedback and actively participating in their well-being can help foster a sense of belonging and unity.
“You need to be building in positivity into your strategy post-redundancies too, as this can be a hugely emotional time within an organisation.” Liam Barton, Senior HR Consultant on episode 135 of The HR Room Podcast.
Listen to the full episode here!
What key advice would you give to an organisation or HR team about to face into managing this process?
Mary: Remember this process is part of a larger organisational plan and it’s important to carry out a risk assessment as it plays a pivotal role in the broader context of managing organisational change and will serve as a critical tool to safeguard against significant disruptions and mitigate potential losses. To ensure that the intended objectives and goals of the restructuring programme are achieved, you should think about potential risks that might arise from the changes being implemented. This process involves a thorough evaluation of both the potential benefits and drawbacks associated with the restructuring efforts.
My key advice is to approach redundancy management with meticulous planning and adherence to legal requirements. Consult with affected employees early and often, document every step of the process, and prioritise empathy and support. Seek legal guidance when needed to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations. Remember that getting redundancy management right is not just a legal obligation but also a way to protect your organisation’s reputation and the well-being of your employees.
As we always say, a good start is half the work, and do not be afraid to pick up the phone to get support early on. Time spent at the start can save you time and stress tenfold down the line. So pick up the phone, and ask!
How can Insight HR help?
Insight HR are experts in redundancy management and employment law compliance. With over 20 years of experience in managing complex procedures, we understand the intricate details that many employers overlook. This has helped countless clients ensure they are implementing a fair redundancy process and so avoid litigation.
By working directly with employers, we will manage the process in a fair, compassionate and compliant manner. Our method is tried and tested: we know exactly how to handle the tricky stuff.
Engaging with Insight HR to manage your redundancy process will ensure that you are fulfilling your obligations as an employer, both to the departing employees and in the eyes of the law. We can also advise on engaging with trade unions and third parties like solicitors and the WRC while also helping you hear any appeals that may arise out of the process.
Our promise to clients, is that they will receive a customised, consistent, and customer-focused service from the team here at Insight HR.
If you’d like to hear more about how we can support you with this, and any other HR challenges you might have, get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat to us directly on 0567701060!
P.S Do you want additional insights from the experts at our next free webinar?
Join the Insight HR team and Barry Crushell for a discussion on managing redundancies, taking place on Wednesday, 27th of September at 11:15 AM!
We’ll be discussing the relevant legislation, sharing guidance on managing the process, exploring the key considerations for employers, and so much more. The HR Room is a free monthly online forum run by Insight HR where you can receive expert HR advice and have your burning questions answered.
Book your place today, before you miss out!
(Or if you’re reading this from the future, then watch it back anytime – it’s on-demand now!)