An employee is dismissed “as redundant” if the reason for their dismissal is not something to do with him or her personally, such as something they were or something they had done, but was a reason relating to the employer, such as their need to effect business change in some respect.
Nicola Charvis, a solicitor specialising in employment law at Kidd Rapinet’s Slough office said, “Whilst the definition of redundancy may seem clear and simple, it can throw up some tricky questions – as in this case”.
The case in question (University and College Union v University of Stirling) related to a group of people who were made redundant from a university. The university had acted within the statutory rules that stated that an employer which proposed to “dismiss as redundant” 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less had an obligation to consult the appropriate representatives, usually a recognised trade union, of any of the employees who might be affected. However, there were four employees whose limited term contracts expired during the consultation period and for whom the university decided, without consultation, simply not to renew the contracts.
The Supreme Court ruled that, whilst it was perfectly acceptable to decide whether to renew a contract of an individual on an individual basis, the decision taken by the university to allow all four contracts to lapse was made as a result of the employer’s need to effect business change. As such, the four employees had the right to consultation and other procedures relating to redundancy.
The specific point in the case was overruled by a later change in the law that excluded the expiry of fixed term contracts from the collective consultation requirement, but it shows the difficulties that can arise with apparently simple definitions.
If you would like assistance in relation to an employment matter, call Nicola Charvis at Kidd Rapinet on 01753 532541 for further information.