A Case Study - Employment: Claire’s Story about Redundancy and Unfair Dismissal

A Case Study - Employment: Claire’s Story about Redundancy and Unfair Dismissal

Claire’s Story

“Claire’s unfair treatment as a result of unfair selection resulting in redundancy"

          A woman employee is dismissed as a result of being selected for redundancy, after the selection matrix has been unfairly and wrongly applied.

Type of law:       Employment – Unfair Dismissal

Lawyer:                Lawson-West Solicitors - Employment Team 


Claire worked as an accountant for a medium size accountancy firm in the West Midlands for 9 years. She was responsible for a number of junior staff and had a good relationship with her co-workers. Claire had 3 other co-workers who were in a similar role to herself and carried out a similar amount of responsibility.

Claire had progressed well through the company over previous years but her situation changed when a new Partner joined the firm approximately 2 years ago who was in charge of Claire’s department. Claire found that she was often ostracised from events and projects and often Claire would find that the Partner would go directly to Claire’s staff so that she felt left out. Nevertheless, Claire was determined to make the best of it in the hope that she too would one day be offered partnership. 

Whilst it was Claire’s view that the firm was operating well and remained efficient, she received a letter notifying her that due to a restructure her role was a at risk of redundancy. Her 3 other peers who carried out the similar role, were invited to a consultation meeting whereby they were fully appraised of the restructure and its reason. 

Claire and her co-workers went to a second meeting (first for Claire) and were told that there would be certain criteria and a matrix upon which they would be scored so that the person with the lowest score would be made redundant. She was told that the scores would be based on attendance and disciplinary records.

Claire believed that she should have scored well since she had limited absence and no disciplinary issues since working for firm. However, Claire was aware that the person assessing her ability was the new Partner. Claire couldn’t help but feel that this was an opportunity for the new Partner to exit her from the business.

Subsequently, the scoring took place and Claire was selected for redundancy given that she had the lowest score. When Claire reviewed the scores it was clear that they were incorrect and unfair. The matrix contained sections on ability that had not been present previously when the matrix was defined. Claire noted that she only scored 1, the lowest you could obtain. Claire was the most experienced, most skilled and most qualified. Claire would often work additional hours and taken on additional work far greater than her peers, yet she only scored one. The next person above her scored one more point yet they had disciplinary issues and relatively poor attendance, lacked the same knowledge and had no qualifications.

Whilst the firm did consult with Claire, when she raised the fact that she had scored almost no marks for ability she was told that her Partner has assessed her as this based on his understanding and feeling of her ability. 

What could Claire do?

Claire began by searching the internet for advice and she came across Lawson-West Solicitors.   

She met with our expert employment lawyers where it was explained that there were several avenues to explore. Initially, Lawson West’s employment lawyer’s advised her to raise an appeal against the decision to make her redundant and set out clearly why the decision to select her for redundancy was unfair, most notably because the firm had not used objective and measurable criteria in assessing Claire’s scores for the matrix. Instead it had relied on one person’s subjective view without regard to any appraisals, alternative peer reviews, or measurements against Claire’s job roles. As such the process had not been conducted properly and the selection was therefore unfair.

Had the Firm carried out the process fairly then it was very reasonable to expect that Claire would have scored higher than the next lowest comparator. The appeal process was unsuccessful and after Lawson-West had engaged with the Government’s ACAS Early Conciliation Service, Lawson-West brought a claim of compensation against the firm. After setting out Claire’s case and having the opportunity to present the genuine facts of the matter, the case was capable of being settled to compensate her for her loss of earnings.

  • The reality of the situation shows how important it is to follow a fair and unbiased procedure when going through redundancies and how business must not rush in to predetermined decisions. It is always important to ‘take the personality’ out of the redundancy process to ensure that decision makers remain proportionate and impartial.

It is very tough for businesses currently within the Coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty and change have brought about all new problems that no one had a plan for.  Businesses are being run by people who are exceptionally stressed, tired and afraid. Whilst there is a huge level of sympathy for businesses, it does not mean that you are able to stray away from employment law.  Unfairly selecting an employee redundancy is unfair and against employment law provisions. 

  • It is important not to make rash, emotional decisions at this time, particularly ones that can led to repercussions. Whether you are the employer or employee you need to ensure you make the right people-making decisions, based upon the right information. If the company owner is too upset to think clearly, arrange a working party to offer guidance and assistance or consider outsourcing the process to a third party.

At Lawson-West Solicitors we can make the emotional decision for you. Don’t risk getting it wrong. Don’t let the emotion you are feeling at that moment cause you further upset and detriment by having to defend yourself or go through litigation. In the case of Claire, we could happily assist with some early intervention to avoid full litigation where possible, or continue a claim through to the Employment Tribunal if necessary, where she would no doubt be awarded compensation.

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If you are facing difficulties at work and need supportive advice, please contact any of our solicitors in the employment team at Lawson-West Solicitors. We're here to help. 

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This case study is provided as example only and is based on the types of employment law case managed by Lawson-West. All names and situation details have been changed to protect the individuals and the employers. Please note that this is a basic overview only and should not be construed or relied upon as advice. Lawson-West Solicitors Limited accepts no duty of care to any third party in connection with this case study. You are encouraged to seek legal advice for your own set of circumstances and actions may differ from those illustrated.

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