Acas helpline: the rise in redundancy enquiries – Impact on Schools

21st September 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen redundancy related calls to the Acas workplace helpline increase by more than 160% during the course of June and July 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019.

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:

“At the moment, nearly a third of calls to our helpline are redundancy related.The economic impact of coronavirus, alongside fears around the furlough scheme tapering off, has left many employers and their staff concerned about their future livelihoods….”

In response to this, Acas has issued updated guidance for employers on how to manage staff redundancies, which can be accessed here. The guidance covers the following:

  • Making a redundancy plan
  • Avoiding compulsory redundancies
  • Redundancy consultations
  • Selecting employees for redundancy
  • Giving employees notice of redundancy
  • Working out redundancy pay
  • Supporting staff and planning for the future

In particular, the guidance focuses on possible alternatives to compulsory redundancy, such as offering voluntary redundancy or early retirement, asking staff to consider flexible ways of working and a reduction in working hours, as well as implementing a recruitment freeze and restricting overtime.

The guidance also clarifies that, since 31 July 2020, furloughed employees are entitled to redundancy pay based on their ‘normal’ salary, rather than the rate they have received whilst on furlough leave (provided they meet the relevant eligibility criteria for a statutory redundancy payment).

Acas were keen to emphasise that redundancies “should always be used be a last resort”.

Impact on schools

We recognise that the pandemic has already had a significant impact upon the independent education sector, and the recession which is expected to follow will likely mean a period of change (and challenge) for schools. As such, schools will need to review their financial viability and, in turn, their staffing requirements in order to determine whether restructures and/or redundancies are necessary.

To assist those schools who need to make staffing cuts, on behalf of the IBSA, we have recently prepared a detailed advice note on ‘staff cost savings and workforce planning for schools, including redundancies and restructures’ which is accompanied by a suite of template documents which schools may use when either consulting with staff individually or collectively.

We recommend that schools seek legal advice at an early stage when embarking on a redundancy or restructuring process so that they are clear on their obligations and the process they are required to follow.

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