Collective redundancies: ACAS guidance arrival…

redundancyAs covered in our March newsletter, on 6 April new collective redundancy regulations came into force which mean that where 100 or more redundancies are proposed the consultation will need to begin no later than 45 days before the first dismissal takes effect (rather than 90 days).

We now also have the new accompanying ACAS guidance: “How to manage collective redundancies” (available here). The guidance is not legally binding but aims to help employers understand their legal obligations and “sets out the principles and behaviours behind a good quality consultation to help employers manage collective redundancies more effectively”. This is the first ACAS guidance concentrating solely on how to handle collective redundancies and, as such, is especially helpful. It also builds on its revised guidance on handling redundancies released last year and available here.

The areas covered by the guidance include:

  • when consultation should start;
  • who the consultation should cover;
  • what information should be provided;
  • who should be consulted;
  • what should be discussed;
  • when individual consultation should be carried out;
  • how the consultation should be conducted and how long it should last;
  • when consultation can be considered complete;
  • when dismissal takes effect;
  • the interpretation of ‘one establishment’ and an explanation of its meaning, setting out a summary of the case law on the issue and suggesting some key questions for employers to consider when determining what is meant by an establishment in their particular circumstances;
  • an explanation of which employees should be counted for the purposes of calculating whether 100 or more employees are affected (the guide explains that fixed-term employees should only be counted where the employer wishes to terminate their employment earlier than the expiry of the fixed term); and
  • advice on how to deal with cases in which the TUPE Regulations 2006 also apply, or in which the employer is potentially insolvent.

Helpfully, the guidance does not restrict itself to legal principles. It also covers more practical issues, such as how to deal with affected staff, for example on topics such as employee engagement, and has much practical help in the form of case studies, sample forms and timelines. Rightly, it sees the non-legal aspects of a redundancy process as a priority for managers to focus on from the outset, advising that “demonstrating empathy can be as important as adhering to organisational policies”, a view that our firm has always strongly advocated.

As ever, the ACAS guidance is not a substitute for specialised legal advice where you are contemplating a large-scale redundancy programme, but it will nonetheless prove helpful to all those involved.