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A Coronavirus Employment Case Study: William's Story - William gets to grips with his pay reduction and then faces redundancy

09-09-2020
A Coronavirus Employment Case Study: William's Story - William gets to grips with his pay reduction and then faces redundancy

William's Story

An employer’s restructure: 
William gets to grips with his pay reduction and then faces redundancy…

Situation:         
A highly-skilled man well imbedded into his career works in an event industry hard-hit by coronavirus, resulting in job loss.

Type of law:       Employment – Restructures

 

A 45-year old man, William, who worked for an international event management and creative company was recently threatened with redundancy.

The company specialises in organising and managing international sports and music events from the set-up of stage and lighting, through to audio-visual technics, high-tec media, lighting, sound and recording.

 

The employees of this company are highly skilled at what they do and the company is very successful. Following Coronavirus however, the volume of event management work had fallen off in this industry sharply and there simply wasn’t the need for all of the staff to be retained. Thankfully, the Government introduced the Job Retention Scheme allowing employers in exactly these types of situations to place employees on Furlough Leave. 

Sadly, as the industry remained locked-down for longer than anticipated, the company decided to undertake a restructure which would see the release of one employee in his unit.  

William, a highly-qualified technical engineer, knew his career was under threat. He worried that he wouldn’t be retained and imagined joining the queues at the Job Centre.

The employer’s consultation process began where a matrix selection was created.  The criteria considered performance measures and absences over the last year.  During the second consultation meeting, William was given his scores where he noticed that he had scored lowest due to his absences.  Confused as he had not had any time off, William noted that the criteria had gone back two years, not one as agreed.  The year before, William had been unwell with a medical condition, taking time off as a result.  This meant that he was the person to be made redundant.  

The situation was already poor, as every employee had already been asked to take a 35% pay cut in their salary a few months earlier and they had agreed to this action in the hope that their jobs might be safe. The company was struggling to survive.

Due to the pay cut, William had been left short financially for some months during coronavirus before hearing the latest restructuring news. He was worried about how to pay his rent and there was very little money left in his survival kitty.

The employer had not realised that by making a criteria that caused him a disadvantage and potentially acting unreasonably they had allowed William cause to raise a complaint of unfair dismissal. 

Coming to Lawson West Solicitors, it became clear that not only was the matrix potentially unfair and discriminatory but the employer had not considered the correct pool of candidates to score in the first instance.  This is often a mistake of the employer.  It is important to identify everyone undertaking the same or similar role/job title when consulting over possible redundancies. 

At no time had any alternatives to dismissal been considered.  Unbeknown to William the company did have a number of roles which were not advertised to William, that may have been suitable avoiding the need for dismissal.

William now faced looking for alternative work in a turbulent market which could have been avoided. 

Carrie-Ann Randall says:

“Employers who are struggling to pay wages can do a number of things to keep afloat. This company did two things:

  1. They asked their employees to take a pay cut and provided new contracts of employment

  2. When they realised that new work enquiries would be dead for many months to come, possibly well into 2021, they conducted an employee restructuring programme.

Whatever the position of your company, there are always different avenues to take and making frantic redundancies is not the best thing to do. This company took a strategic decision to restructure, they had no choice but if they had completed it in a planned way, consulting correctly with their employees all the way through, identifying the correct pool of candidates, looking at suitable alternatives and ensuring no disadvantage was caused by the criteria, they may not have found themselves in a Tribunal.

Thankfully in this case, full litigation was avoided as Lawson West was able to advise the employer of how they were able to rectify matters, re-engage William albeit on a lower salary and avoided any messy litigation. 

What this employer did was look at the bigger picture, the legal elements and not take a hostile or aggressive stance believing that William was just out to get money.  William just wanted the opportunity to work. 

The employer did not have any HR or legal support which allowed them to fall short of their employee obligations.  After this, Lawson West now actively assists them with their HR and dispute matters to ensure they run smoothly and have not had any difficulties, leading to litigation since.”

 

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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