15 June 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a 20% decrease in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the UK economy. With the Government and RCVS Covid-19 guidelines advising veterinary practices to provide only emergency or essential medical treatment; the amount of products sold and services usually performed on a daily basis, came to a grinding halt.
As the work stopped and the cash flow decreased, many veterinary practices had to furlough their staff to protect them from being made redundant. Originally, the government furlough scheme was only running until the end of June but it has now been extended to October 2020, and from July you can also return to work part-time while being on furlough.
But how long will it take veterinary practices to get back on their feet again? And this poses the question – can you still be made redundant and what is the process?
Can I be made Redundant?
The short answer is yes. At any point during the furlough scheme or even when it ends, employees can be made redundant. Even if employees were not furloughed during Covid-19, they can be made redundant at any time.
If there is a redundancy clause in your contract, then you are entitled to redundancy pay which is calculated on your normal salary. Employees are only entitled to statutory redundancy pay if they have been employed for two or more years.
The Redundancy Process
1. Employees should check their contact to see what the contractual redundancy policy is, as the employer will need to follow this.
2. If your employer is considering making anyone redundant, there needs to be a statement from them explaining their position and informing employees that there is a risk of being made redundant.
3. There needs to be a consultation between the employer and the employees. This may be done individually if the business is quite small, or it might be with Employee Representatives or a Union in a larger business. A ‘reasonable’ time frame should be allowed for this and it will vary – usually if there are 20-99 employees affected, then the consultation period is 30 days. It is often less than 30 days if there is a smaller number of employees.
4. A redundancy consultation must be reasonable, and employees may have ideas to be considered that could negate the need for redundancy which should be considered.
5. Employers will often use a ‘pool’ of potentially affected employees to select which employees are to be made redundant. This won’t be necessary if only one person is doing the role that is being considered to be made redundant, or if the group of employees affected is clear (if the whole practice is closing for example). The selection criteria should be specific, measurable, and based on tasks and responsibilities undertaken. This process and the selection criteria to be used should be shared with all the affected employees.
6. At the end of this process, the employees selected to be made redundant should receive a letter informing them of this and confirming how much money they will receive. If any holiday has been accrued but not taken by the date of termination, then this must be paid and the employee will be entitled to either a notice period which they will work, or ‘pay in lieu of notice’, or ‘garden leave’.
7. Even if other members of the team have been made redundant, if you haven’t been selected for redundancy, then this should be confirmed in a letter.
An employee should be treated fairly throughout the redundancy process and have their employee rights met at every stage. Some rights include:
● An employer may or may not accept voluntary redundancies, but this needs to be decided on at the beginning of the process.
● Any employee who is made redundant has the right to appeal against the decision and the timeline for this must be in their letter.
● If an employee is selected for redundancy but wishes to stay, the employer should check to see if there are any roles within the veterinary practice or business and make it possible for the employee to apply for them. An employee can trial a job for four weeks and if it is not suitable, then this should not affect their statutory redundancy pay.
● Time off is permitted during the notice period to look for alternative work, but this may be on reduced pay.
● Employees on maternity leave have some protection, and their maternity leave must not be a reason for a redundancy. The redundancy consultation must still be arranged, once again, if there are other suitable roles in the veterinary practice then these should be offered.
Support with Redundancy
Everyone involved in the redundancy process is likely to be affected by this in some way. Other employees who are not selected for redundancy can still feel guilty and often colleagues who are leaving the organisation are friends of those who are remaining.
An employer may be able to help and support those employees being made redundant – contacts with other employers, references, C.V. help or access to these services if they cannot provide them directly themselves.
Some organisations which can help both employers and employees during the redundancy process are: