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10 September 2011

Pitfalls of making an absent employee redundant.

 

After our last monthly meeting a decision was taken to make three redundancies. We would like to put nine people through the consultation phase but one is off at the moment with long term sickness. Can I put this person through the phase even though they are not at work and, if so, are there special requirements that I have to fulfil before notifying them?

 

As far as possible you need to treat any employee on long-term sick leave, or maternity leave for that matter, in the same way as any other employee who is attending work and going through the redundancy process. It is often tempting to deal with absent employees differently to those who are physically at work but this is a mistake. They need to be treated in the same way as everyone else despite the fact that communicating with them may be a bit trickier.

 

On the special notice requirements, the answer is no. The absent employee should receive the same notifications of the process as employees who are physically present. This may mean that stipulated times for responses should be slightly longer and accommodation will need to be made to avoid any disadvantages being caused if the employee suffers from any disability.

 

In the scenario mentioned in the question, you will need to select employees for redundancy according to criteria you have decided. These should be as objective as possible but should be weighted to reduce the long-term absence as far as possible. Failure to do so may result in a dismissal being seen to be unfair and may also raise the risk of claims on grounds of disability discrimination if qualifying conditions are met by the employee.

 

 

Source: FT 10.09.2011

 

*Article for guidance only. Professional advice should be obtained to ensure that all circumstances are assessed in providing a complete answer.