An area employers often find particularly difficult when dealing with redundancy situations is the question of which employees should go into the pool for selection.
If there are employees whose jobs are sufficiently similar, then they should be put in a pool for selection, and objective criteria should be applied in order to determine who is selected for redundancy. If on the other hand there is an employee in a standalone position, where there is no one else to include in a pool, then there is no requirement for selection criteria.
In the recent case of Halpin v Sandpiper Books an employee challenged his former employer’s decision to treat his role as a standalone position.
Mr Halpin had been employed in a sales role in China (but with sufficient connection to the UK to be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim). He was the only salesperson for the company in China. Sandpiper decided to outsource its sales work, and put Mr Halpin at risk of redundancy. He was offered alternative employment but decided not to take it, and was therefore dismissed by reason of redundancy.
Mr Halpin claimed that he had been unfairly dismissed and in particular raised the fact that the company had acted unreasonably in limiting the pool to one person. He argued that no reasonable employer would automatically limit the pool of workers to those people whose work had itself diminished, and said that people with interchangeable skills should have been put into a pool with him.
The Employment Tribunal found that the employer had acted fairly, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed they agreed. It is a management decision as to who should be included in the pool, and the decision that the company had taken was one that was reasonably open to it in the circumstances. In particular, the Employment Appeal Tribunal referred to the fact that there were no other similarly qualified possible targets for redundancy who could have been included in the pool.
While this is not a new development – it confirms our previous understanding in this area – this case will come as a relief for employers as it reaffirms managers’ ability to make decisions on pooling. Employment Tribunals do not like to interfere with management decisions of this kind unless they are obviously unreasonable, which does give employers some flexibility where the answer is not clear-cut.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team 01243 836840 or [email protected].