Acas: Redundancy related enquiries surge 160%

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Conciliation service Acas has experienced a marked increase in calls to its helpline on the subject of redundancy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Acas said redundancy related calls shot up by 160% over the past two months when compared to the same period in 2019.

It has issued updated advice for employers that may be considering making roles redundant, encouraging them to consider alternatives such as more flexible ways of working, compressed hours or job shares.

Redundancy “should always be a last resort” after other options have been exhausted, Acas said.

Organisations could also consider a recruitment freeze or limits on overtime. Another option could be to move employees into other suitable roles – if another role is suitable and it is not offered, this could be judged as unfair dismissal, the organisation advised.

Its guidance also clarifies new law changes on calculating redundancy and notice pay for furloughed staff.

Legislation that came into force from 31 July means that qualifying employees are now entitled to redundancy pay based on their ‘normal’ salary rather than the rate they received on furlough.

It stipulates that employees with more than two years’ continuous service should receive redundancy pay and statutory notice pay based on their contracted rate, and that basic awards for unfair dismissal cases must also be based on full pay rather than furlough pay.

Acas chief executive Susan Clews said that many employers and staff were “concerned about their future livelihoods” due to the impact of the pandemic. Around a third of calls to Acas focus on redundancy issues, she added.

“Some businesses have found innovative ways to deal with the crisis through restructuring that has allowed them to safeguard jobs in consultation with trade unions,” she said.

“Our advice in this area recommends alternatives to redundancies, which should always be used as a last resort, as well as how to follow the law if it cannot be avoided.”

Companies to have announced large scale redundancy plans in the past few days include Hays Travel, HSBC, and WH Smith.

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