Crunch dates for collective redundancy consultations, warns law firm Collyer Bristow

Retail businesses needing to make 100 or more redundancies at one establishment within 90 days are facing a 15 May crunch date to start the process should the Government decide not to extend its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) beyond the 30 June, warns the employment team at Collyer Bristow.

Tania Goodman, partner and head of employment law at Collyer Bristow, comments: “The CJRS is due to end on 30 June and many employers may not need or be able to afford staff who are currently furloughed beyond that date. 

“Employers making 100 people or more redundant in one establishment will need to collectively consult with their staff through elected representatives and individually for those at risk for a minimum of 45 days, with those making between 20 and 99 people redundant collectively consulting for a minimum of 30 days.

“This means that in the former, consultations will need to start no later than 15 May and in the latter by 1 June in order for the consultation periods to have run their course by 30 June, after which redundancies can be confirmed if necessary.”

The failure to collectively consult, warns Goodman, comes with stiff penalties, with each member of staff made redundant being able to claim a ‘protective award’ of up to 90 days actual pay. 

“Staff who are furloughed may feel particularly vulnerable in any redundancy consultations. They will be furloughed for a variety of reasons and the outcome of any consultation should not be pre-judged. Furloughed staff may not be checking work emails or calls regularly if at all, as they are not allowed to work during this period. Extra efforts should therefore be made by management and human resources teams to contact and involve them in redundancy consultations. These can be done remotely via video conferencing, telephone calls, email or in writing.

“There is a possibility that the Government will extend the furlough scheme into July or beyond. Collective redundancy consultations can and should start sooner than the minimum prescribed consultation periods where possible, although when to start them is likely to depend on the anticipated needs of the particular business going forward.”

Goodman adds one final word of warning: “Employers also have a duty to notify the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) if they are proposing collective consultation redundancies and this notification (Form HR1) must be given to the Secretary of State for BIS before notices of termination are issued and at least 30 or 45 days before the first dismissal takes place depending on the numbers involved. Failure to do so is a criminal offence and likely to result in a significant fine.”