Redundancy procedure

Procedure for considering the termination on grounds of redundancy of

  • Permanent contracts
  • Self-financing contracts
  • Open-ended externally-funded contracts (for academic-related staff only)
  • Fixed-term contracts (premature termination only)

This procedure applies to all academic, academic-related and support staff, who, by the date when their employment is terminated, will have been in continuous employment at the University for one or more years.

There is a separate procedure for the termination of fixed-term contracts at their scheduled end date.

In considering any redundancy, it is essential to follow the following procedure and to keep records of all associated actions, discussions and consultations. Template letters, which may also act as checklists to ensure that the correct steps have been taken, are available for use at the right hand side of the page and are identified in this document as (Pro-forma letter).

The six stages:

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Stage 1a: Rationale for ceasing and area of academic, professional or support staff activity

A department may only put staff at risk of redundancy where they have established a clear rational for doing so, and is ceasing, or intending to cease, the activity or project for which the employee was employed, in the place where that employee was employed.

The practical reasons may emerge from internal planning which decides the size and most efficient use of staffing required to meet objectives or financial constraints. Or the redundancy may be a response to external factors, including, for example, the loss or reduction of external funding. The operational argument or academic rationale may take any format, provided it gives a clear, written reasons why certain posts are no longer required.

Stage 1b: Identify the potential redundancy pool

The relevant department must identify the pool from which any eventual redundancies will be sought. 

If, later in the process, compulsory redundancies prove to be unavoidable, the department will have to demonstrate that the pool from which those dismissed are selected had been properly and fairly identified. Selection from too narrow a pool may itself render a dismissal unfair. Judgement has to be objective.

The pool must reflect the specific circumstances of the case. For example: 

  • where the intention is to cease a particular activity altogether, identifying the pool is relatively straightforward.  It may be clear that all employees who carry out that activity are likely to be at risk of redundancy. This may produce a large pool or, where the post under threat is highly specialised and only one employee is qualified to fill it, there may reasonably be a pool of only one.
  • where the intention is to reduce an activity or to cease it in only one area, it may be appropriate to include not just the employees whose posts have been identified as being at risk, but also comparable employee(s) in other areas.
  • where employees’ jobs are readily interchangeable, it is likely to be necessary to include all those employees in the pool.
  • where employees on different types of contract are doing similar work, they may also need to be included in the pool.

Advice should be sought from your HR Business Partner.

 

Procedures governing how any eventual selection from the pool is made are given in Stage 5.

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Stage 2a: Notify University HR

Where the rationale demonstrates that it may be necessary to terminate contracts on grounds of redundancy, the department concerned must inform the HR Director, usually via the appropriate HR Business Partner.

University HR will arrange for specialist personnel support to be provided to the department. The advice of University HR should be taken at each subsequent stage of this procedure.

University HR will also ensure that arrangements are made for staff representatives to be informed and consulted at an appropriate time.

University HR will take an active role in supporting the department in its management of the subsequent stages of the redundancy procedure, including especially the steps necessary for the consideration of compulsory redundancy, should that prove unavoidable.

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Stage 3a: Warn staff

Any employee who is at risk of dismissal on grounds of redundancy must, wherever practicable, be given advance warning that their contractual or statutory notice period will commence on a given date if compulsory redundancy cannot be avoided. The employee will be consulted on the redundancy proposal and possible means of avoiding redundancy including redeployment.

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 to give more than three months' advance warning, in which case the employee should be given warning as soon as is appropriate
  • 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 University HR 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 (see Stage 4), or to mitigate its effect
  • the employee should be asked to let the department know whether or not they wish 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
  • University HR 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 on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, or is likely to be at the time the proposed redundancy would take effect (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 University HR 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 where it proposes to make 20 or more employees redundant within 90 days, (except where projects and fixed-term contracts have reached their scheduled end date). At Oxford this means that the appropriate HR Business Partner will consult with 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 redundancy proposals 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

  • University HR 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 rationale for the proposed redundancy activities, and the likely redundancy pool is best done at an oral briefing by the appropriate department, with University HR, 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, for example, 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.

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Stage 4a: Voluntary redundancy

The need for compulsory redundancy may be avoided if those at risk, or others, reach agreement to leave voluntarily. This can take the form of voluntary severance; early retirement; or 'bump' severance. Bump severance is the means by which a member of staff who has been included in the pool for redundancy but does not wish to resign, moves with agreement into the equivalent post of another employee elsewhere in the University who does wish to resign but whose post is not within scope of the redundancy pool.

Voluntary severance

At any time during the warning period an employee at risk of redundancy may apply to resign and leave the University voluntarily on enhanced terms (Pro-forma letter A3).

  • although the department may seek volunteers as a means of avoiding compulsory redundancies, it must be clear that any application to leave voluntarily is the employee’s choice
  • HR Business Partners will advise on the terms available on a case-by-case basis
  • to accept an application, the department must be satisfied that it is appropriate for that particular employee to be released (Pro-forma letter A4)
  • it may be necessary to wait until the end of the warning period before formally accepting an individual's resignation, in order to ensure that the number of employees wishing to leave on enhanced terms does not exceed the staff reduction required (in which case, a selection process will be necessary in order to determine which resignations should be accepted)

Employees who leave the University on enhanced, voluntary severance terms should not be re-employed in any capacity for a period of time, normally at least three months, after the leaving date, the period to be determined by the University at the time of severance. For further information contact your HR Business Partners.

Early retirement

In appropriate circumstances, an employee at risk might wish to apply for early retirement under the rules of the pension scheme to which they belong (consult early retirement)

Bump severance

Where volunteers do not come forward, or where there are insufficient volunteers, the next step would be to explore the possibility of bump severance. This occurs when an employee not at risk volunteers to leave their employment so that an employee who is at risk and who is not volunteering to leave can move into their post.

  • Bump severance is only possible where the skills and abilities of the employee who is to continue at the University match the requirements of the post from which the volunteer is departing
  • Details of employees who, with the agreement of their department, have registered an interest in bump severance should suitable opportunity arise are available on Register of employees wishing to leave on agreed terms.

In all cases the department with advice from HR Business Partners, should try to ensure that those applying to leave voluntarily understand the implications:

  • The University will not normally re-employ them in any capacity until a minimum of three months after their leaving date
  • Termination under voluntary severance arrangements normally takes place on a mutually acceptable date no earlier than the end of the advance warning period and no later than the date at which the contract would have been terminated had contractual or statutory notice been given at the end of the warning period. Advice should be sought from HR Business Partners if there is any wish to make other arrangements
  • The employee should seek advice from the Pensions Office

Stage 4b: redeployment

The University has an obligation to ensure that employees who are at risk of redundancy may look for suitable alternative work for which they have transferable skills and which is at the same grade or one grade lower. If suitable alternative work is identified and if the employee is suitable to undertake it, it should be offered to the employee before the end of the employee’s current employment.

Within a reasonable time of being given advance warning, the employee at risk should let the department know whether or not they wish to pursue alternative employment at the University.

  • If the employee does not wish to pursue redeployment at the University, they should inform the department by means of a letter (Pro-forma letter A5). No further action to redeploy is then required
  • If the employee wishes to pursue alternative employment at the University, they should inform the department by means of a letter (Pro-forma letter A6).
  • The department should reply to the employee with a letter identifying a nominated facilitator, confirming that they are considered to be a Priority candidate and providing details of the process (Pro-forma letter A7)
  • Through the nominated facilitator, at meetings and by way of correspondence, the department should continue to advise the employee about redeployment prospects throughout the potential redeployment period. Copies of such correspondence and the notes taken at discussions should be kept on file
  • If the employee has not responded within a reasonable time, the department should seek a response

If the employee does wish to be redeployed, the appropriate department should make all reasonable efforts to try to locate suitable alternative employment. The department should provide an employee who wishes to redeploy with:

  • the opportunity to submit a Priority candidate application, if a suitable vacancy is identified
  • access to any potentially suitable vacancies within the same department and the opportunity to discuss them, where possible, before they are advertised
  • access to information about all university vacancies through the jobs and vacancies website
  • access to training relevant to improving their chances of finding alternative employment, and reasonable time away from normal duties to participate in such training and to search for a job
  • academic and research staff in particular should be helped to consider realistic career options outside universities as well as within

Redeployment constitutes a change to an individual's contractual terms of employment and cannot be implemented without their consent. But unreasonable failure to accept an offer of suitable alternative employment would put the individual at risk that they would not be entitled to a redundancy payment.

Where an employee whose post is at risk of redundancy has an opportunity for redeployment, the department may offer financial assistance to facilitate this, up to an amount not exceeding the potential cost of voluntary severance for the employee in question (including any employer's on-costs, if appropriate). This may take several forms, for example:

  • it may be appropriate to offer a limited period of salary protection if the redeployment is to a lower graded post, or one which offers a lower salary for other reasons
  • the funds could be used to pay for all or part of the cost of any appropriate retraining required

HR Business Partners must be consulted before any such offers are made. Where appropriate, this arrangement could involve a transfer of funds between departments.

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If, at the end of the three month advance warning period, it has not been possible to avoid the need for redundancies and achieve the necessary staff reductions by voluntary means or through redeployment, the compulsory dismissal process must be followed.

In all cases the process for dismissal on grounds of redundancy must include:

  • a fair selection process (see Stage 5b below) to determine which employees are dismissed
  • a proper consultation period
  • appropriate redundancy payment (see Stage 5e below)

At the end of this process, the formal notice of dismissal (Pro-forma letter A8) may only be issued after appropriate authorisation.

Each dismissal notice must include provision for an appeal (see Stage 6).

Stage 5a: Authorisation procedure

There are separate procedures for authorising redundancy in different staff groups:

Academic and academic-related staff

Dismissals should be in accordance with Statute XII, Part B and in accordance with Council Regulations 2 of 2017. Normal expiries of fixed-term contracts are not included here. There is a separate procedure for the termination of fixed-term contracts at their scheduled end date .

Advising the Director of Human Resources

A Divisional Board, or an equivalent University authority, should refer the proposal for compulsory redundancy to the Director of Human Resources, through the HR Business Partner. The Director of Human Resources will advise the UCU joint secretary of the compulsory redundancy proposal and arrange for the Registrar to seek the approval of Congregation for the appointing of a Redundancy Panel (except in cases involving the proposed termination of an open-ended externally funded contract).

Seeking authorisation from Congregation

The appointment of a Redundancy Panel requires a prior decision of Congregation, except in those instances which involve employees on open-ended contracts, where the need for redundancy arises through the withdrawal of external funding, save where the Redundancy Panel forms majority view to seek approval from Congregation (s14.(4)).

Council shall put a resolution to Congregation seeking approval for the formation of a Redundancy Panel under Part B, Section 10. Congregation shall be told the type of post, grade and division to give an indication of the nature and scope of the redundancies under consideration, suitably anonymised.

Please refer to Statute XII Part B and the relevant regulations for further detail on the compulsory redundancy process.

Support staff

In all cases the advice of the HR Business Partner should be taken before the compulsory dismissal process is started.

Stage 5b: Fair selection of staff for redundancy

In cases where the number of staff to be dismissed is smaller than the number of staff in the potential redundancy pool, there must be a selection process to determine which employees will be dismissed.

Where it is not proposed that all the staff in the redundancy pool are to be made redundant, the decision making body must be given details of the selection criteria used and selection activities undertaken including CV and scoring against selection criteria.

Selection will involve choosing between employees who carry out the same or similar duties. Departments must, therefore, give careful thought to the criteria that will allow a choice to be made.

These criteria should generally be objective and appropriate and applied fairly and transparently. What constitutes appropriate criteria will vary according to local circumstance and advice must be sought from HR Business Partners at an early stage. Employees and the appropriate trade union(s) should be notified of the criteria and given the opportunity to comment, in order to ensure that any special circumstances that apply to employees at risk of redundancy are taken into account in the selection process.

Some commonly used selection criteria include:

  • skills or experience
  • standard of work performance or aptitude for work
  • attendance (excluding family leave related, or absence due to a disability) or disciplinary record

but whatever criteria are used, it is essential that employees can be marked against them in an accurate, consistent and objective way.

The criteria, or the application of them, should not discriminate because of:

  • protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (which include: disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation)
  • trade union membership or activities, or assertion of a statutory right
  • unjustifiably singling out one type of worker against another, for example unjustifiably selecting a full-time worker over a part-timer or a permanent contract employee over someone on a fixed-term contract

Stage 5c: Impact assessment

An equality impact assessment reporting whether staff groups who share a protected characteristic will be adversely affected and details of any actions that were taken or considered to mitigate these effects should be completed.

Stage 5d: Notice period

Employees who are dismissed on grounds of redundancy are entitled to receive their contractual or statutory notice period, whichever is the longer. This notice period should be given in the notice of dismissal.

The notice period may vary according to length of service and type of employment from a minimum of one week up to three months or more. For further information see Notice.

Although it would normally be expected that an employee dismissed for redundancy would work their notice period, it may be appropriate in some circumstances for an employee to leave before the expiry of their notice period. Departments should seek the advice of the HR Business Partner.

Stage 5e: Redundancy payment

Employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy payment if they have worked continuously for the University for at least two years and their post is being made redundant.

This applies to those on fixed-term (whether terminated prematurely or at their expected date) as well as open-ended externally-funded or permanent contracts.

Employees may, however, not be entitled to a redundancy payment if they:

  • have found, or been successfully redeployed, to another post within the University
  • have been offered and refused suitable alternative work without good reason
  • leave employment before the end of the notice period (by resigning) in order to take up alternative work outside the University, without having given proper notice
  • HR Business Partners should be consulted on specific cases

Whenever a redundancy payment is made, the employee must be given a written statement showing how the payment has been calculated.

Statutory Redundancy Pay (SRP) is payable at a rate that is set by Government and is calculated by reference to weekly pay, age and length of continuous employment.

  • The weekly pay rate is capped by Government and adjusted regularly
  • All calculations should therefore be made by using the ready reckoner supplied by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

An employee does not have to make a claim to redundancy pay in order to be entitled to it. The department should arrange payment by notifying the Payroll section. The employing department must therefore complete the following steps to action payment:

  • complete a Payroll Leaver Form noting the reason for leaving as “X02 Compulsory redundancy (including expiry of fixed term contracts)”
  • send the Leaver Form to the Payroll Manager/Deputy Payroll Manager together with a memo including the amount of redundancy payment due (as calculated by the ready reckoner) and the cost centre from which the payment should be made
  • do not send a separate payment request to Payments, as the redundancy payments will normally be made with the final pay or in the next available pay period after notification as a bank transfer payment

In cases where an employee is accepted for voluntary redundancy, enhanced terms may apply. Departments should discuss this with HR Business Partners.  Further information can be found on Voluntary redundancy (see Stage 4).

Employees who, on leaving University employment, receive statutory redundancy payment should not be re-employed by the University in any capacity for a period of at least four complete calendar weeks (a calendar week being judged to start on a Sunday) after the leaving date.

Employees who leave the University on enhanced, voluntary severance terms should not be re-employed in any capacity for a period of time, normally at least three months, after the leaving date, the period to be determined by the University at the time of severance. For further information contact your HR Business Partner.

Stage 5f: Premature ending of open-ended contracts

For academic-related staff on an open-ended, externally funded contract, where the need for redundancy arises through the withdrawal of external funding, the arrangements for a Redundancy Panel must be followed, without a resolution to Congregation, save where it forms majority view to seek approval from Congregation (s14.(4)), as provided for in Statute XII, Part B, Section 13.

The Registrar will select a Redundancy Panel (as in Section 5a) to consider proposals to terminate open-ended, externally funded contracts on grounds of redundancy.

The Redundancy Panel will only consider formal proposals forwarded by Divisional Boards or other appropriate authorities.

If a Redundancy Panel appointed to consider a particular redundancy proposal forms a majority view that for any reason it would be inappropriate to proceed without the approval of Congregation, the Panel should advise Council to that effect and await such approval before proceeding further.

It is the Redundancy Panel’s responsibility to consider the case for redundancy, to confirm that the procedures in 5a and 5b above have been followed to select the staff who are to be dismissed from the at-risk pool.

Anyone who believes that they have a matter which should be referred to the Redundancy Panel should:

  • seek advice from HR Business Partners
  • consult the full document at the right hand side of the page which sets out the detailed arrangements governing the Redundancy Panel. 

Stage 5g: Summary of the activity of the Redundancy Panel

The Director of Human Resources shall provide the Personnel Committee with an annual summary of the activity of the Redundancy Panel, in relation to academic and academic-related staff, and the Committee will publish that summary to Congregation.

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An employee may appeal against notice of dismissal on grounds of redundancy. Details of the appropriate appeal process are included in the notice of dismissal (Pro-forma letter A8).

Any such appeal must follow one of two arrangements:

For academic and academic-related staff

Appeals against redundancy dismissal are made and considered under Statute XII, Part H

For support staff

Appeals are made and considered under arrangements for a support staff Redundancy Panel.

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Appeals by a support staff employee against dismissal on grounds of redundancy will be heard by a Redundancy Panel.

Appeals must be made in writing to the Director of Human Resources within 10 working days of the notice being issued.

The appellant should specify in writing their grounds for appeal, and the reasons why they are dissatisfied with the outcome at department or divisional level.

The Director of Human Resources will advise the Head of Department or Division as appropriate and make arrangements for the servicing of the appeal by an HR Business Partner.

Full details of the appeal process and the arrangements followed by the Redundancy Panel are available in the document PDF3 Appeals and redundancy panel for support staff at the right hand side of the page.

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