Case update (1): Redundancy – Selection pool of one and guidance

The Rejected OneSummary:  If an employee’s role is distinct, can it be in a pool of its own rather than in a wider selection pool?

Yes says the EAT in Prince v Groundwork Wrexham & Flintshire available here.

Facts:  The Executive Director of the employer, Groundwork, produced a restructuring plan based on the conclusion that it had too many managers and insufficient staff actually delivering their services.  The plan involved the reduction of four management posts to two.  Four employees, including Miss Prince, were identified as potentially redundant. However, under the proposed new structure, it was Miss Prince’s post, that of Deputy Executive Director, that was no longer present.  Miss Prince produced her own document suggesting an alternative way forward but the Executive Director’s plan was agreed by the Board and Miss Prince’s role was deleted. Alternative new posts were made available to Miss Prince, but she did not apply for them and she was made redundant.

Miss Prince brought a Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal.  Miss Prince claimed that Groundwork should have had a selection pool of at least the four managers identified as potentially redundant.  However, the Tribunal rejected her claim.

The EAT upheld the Tribunal’s decision.  It found that although Groundwork could have widened the pool to all four managers, it was also open to it, on the facts, to proceed on the basis of a pool of one.  Miss Prince’s job was not the same as the others: she was effectively ‘number two’ in a hierarchy and her post was being deleted.

The EAT further found that the Tribunal had correctly identified the issues involved in a redundancy dismissal claim, namely whether:

  • there was a redundancy situation;
  • Miss Prince was dismissed for redundancy; and
  • the dismissal was fair.

The Tribunal had been entitled to find that:

  • A genuine redundancy situation existed. The Executive Director had set out a detailed plan to resolve the employer’s financial problems. The plan was not intended, as had been suggested, to get rid of Miss Prince because of alleged rivalry.
  • The redundancy was the reason for Miss Prince’s dismissal. The employer clearly no longer required all four management roles and needed to divert resources, because of financial difficulties, to those actually delivering the services provided.
  • The employer had not acted unreasonably in treating Miss Prince as being in a pool of one. She held a unique position, so no selection criteria were needed as she was the only person holding that post.
  • There had been adequate consultation. Miss Prince had been warned her job was at risk, had been able to put her views forward at the board meeting, and had been invited to submit alternative proposals.

Implications: this is a useful reminder that (i) a pool of one can be a justifiable method of selecting for redundancy and (ii) the key issues a Tribunal will consider when deciding whether a redundancy dismissal is fair and reasonable.