Stage 3: Warning and consultation

Stage 3a: Warn staff

Any employee who is at risk of dismissal on grounds of redundancy must, wherever practicable, be given advance warning that his or her contractual or statutory notice period will commence on a given date if compulsory redundancy cannot be avoided.

Timing

  • advance warning will normally be given at least three months before the start of the notice period
  • in some cases it may be possible and desirable to give more than three months' advance warning.
  • in some cases it may not be operationally possible to provide a full three months' warning.  An example would be where external funding were to be suddenly withdrawn from a particular group or project.  Any such cases must be fully discussed with Personnel Services before notifying staff or staff representatives.
  • where possible and appropriate, consideration will be given to adjusting the timing of advance warning to align it to any recognised recruitment cycle for the type of employment in question.

Content

  • advance warning should be given at a meeting (Pro-forma letter A) between the department and the employee and then followed up in writing (Pro-forma letter A1).
  • the employee should be given the opportunity to bring a union representative or colleague of his or her choice to this meeting.
  • the employee should be informed of the reasons for the planned staff reductions and for their inclusion in the at-risk pool.
  • the employee should be advised of the options available or to be pursued to avoid compulsory redundancy, including redeployment or voluntary redundancy, or to mitigate its effect.
  • the employee should be asked to let the department know whether or not he or she wishes to be considered for voluntary redundancy and/or redeployment.  It should be made clear that suitable posts might not be available, and that the search is more likely to succeed where the employee is prepared to be flexible about his or her future role.
  • Personnel Services should be consulted in advance of such meetings.

Information should be sent to, and consultation undertaken with, all affected employees, including those temporarily absent or on sick or parental leave (including maternity leave).  Departments considering redundancy in respect of a post where the post holder is a pregnant woman (who has protected status under legislation) must consult HR Business Partners before taking any action.

The provision of this advance warning period can be instrumental both in enabling employees to come to terms with their potential redundancy and in ensuring that staff reductions are, wherever possible, achieved by voluntary means.

Contact between department and/or Personnel Services and the employees at risk should be maintained and recorded throughout the redundancy procedure (Pro-forma letter A2).

Stage 3b: consult the unions

The University is required to consult staff representatives on collective redundancies. At Oxford this means the recognised unions: UCU, Unison and Unite.  The unions must be engaged regardless of whether individual employees at risk of redundancy take up the option of union representation when their situation is discussed with them.

Consultation means providing a reasonable opportunity to influence developments: 

  • the unions should be briefed on the emerging business plan at the earliest reasonable stage, when there is still an opportunity to influence the decision on whether staff reductions are required.
  • the unions should be given the number and description of posts at risk and the pool of staff from which it is proposed to select any eventual redundancies.
  • the unions should be also be given the opportunity to influence how any staff reductions are achieved, for example by looking for voluntary rather than compulsory redundancies and, where there is a pool, the intended method of selecting the employees who will be made redundant.
  • the unions must be given adequate information to enable them to respond and adequate time in which to make their response.  Management must give conscientious consideration to those responses.

Practical steps

  • Personnel Services will contact the University-level union representatives to alert them to the consultation requirement and to identify and agree the appropriate avenues for briefing and continued consultation.
  • the presentation of the business case and likely redundancy pool is best done at an oral briefing by the appropriate department, with Personnel Services, so that initial questions and comments can be sought and received.
  • this first presentation is also the occasion on which to settle details of how formal consultation will be continued.
  • the initial briefing should be timed to take place just before or just after staff are briefed.
  • it may be that, by mutual agreement, consultation need only be with one or other of the recognised unions e.g. where the case in question concerns employees represented by one particular union. The unions are generally content to be briefed together, but there may be occasions where this is not possible or appropriate. 

Consultation is required through each stage of the subsequent redundancy procedure.   It is particularly important to consult on matters such as voluntary departures, the proposed method of selecting from the pool, the proposed timing and method of carrying out any dismissals and compensation arrangements.

Aside from any legal requirement, working with the union representatives is helpful in implementing business plans.  Individuals can find their support and guidance helpful in thinking realistically about the future. Managers may find that contact with union representatives helps to avoid potentially damaging misunderstandings or subsequent difficulties and also to explore alternatives to compulsory redundancies.