Redundancy law - a very brief outline
Fairness and Avoidance | The Termination
Procedure | Statute 18 | See
If you are threatened with redundancy or are expected to make staff
redundant you should review this page.
|It is UCU policy to oppose all redundancies and
to argue for the best practice in the redeployment of
Note that by publishing information about how staff should
best deal with a potential redundancy, we are in no way
accepting that redundancies are justifiable, or qualifying
our right to take action against them.
Redundancy is one of the most serious things that an employer
can do to an employee in their working life. Employers are required
- avoid redundancies wherever possible and
- select staff for redundancy fairly, if redundancy proves inevitable.
Due to the fact that different cases are, quite simply, different,
it is not possible to anticipate every single situation here. You
must seek advice from your UCU representative if you are a member.
Join the union if you are not! Please
do not leave this to the last minute as this will affect our ability
to offer help.
What follows, therefore, is only an outline.
Key principles: fairness and avoidance
The most common reason offered at UCL for redundancy is the ending
of funding for a post. As we comment on our Fixed
Term Staff page, it used to be legal to offer fixed term contracts
to staff and then dismiss staff at the end of the contract. This
is no longer the case.
If funding earmarked for a post is due to end, or duties are diminishing
in a particular area, this fact alone does not comprise legally
sufficient grounds for making the current incumbent redundant. It
may be possible to
- find funds from other sources and keep the post, or
- move the staff member to another similar post.
Where two or more staff are carrying out similar jobs, employers
must consider the pooling of the staff together rather than
selecting one on the basis of funding. Pooling is a relatively novel
procedure in UCL, although it is enshrined in the Organisational
Redundancy must be considered ‘in the round’.
It is possible to move staff or adjust their duties in order to
avoid the redundancy of one of their number. Consequently, if it
is claimed that duties are genuinely diminishing, but in reality
duties are handed to other staff, then a redundancy may not be fair.
The courts tend to accept that large employers, like UCL, have more
room to maneuver to avoid redundancies than small employers.
The question of finding suitable alternative employment
to avoid redundancy is not exhausted by the (useful) UCL Redeployment
Procedure. The legal requirement is for employers to try to
avoid the redundancy of staff in the first place, and formal redeployment
is only one method of doing so.
This point is particularly clear in the case of academic staff,
including research staff, who may have highly specialised skills.
Lecturers are asked to teach a different course if numbers fall.
Research staff can be moved to another research project. In practice
it is more likely that they will find comparable duties within the
same department than in an entirely different field.
The question of suitability for a post is based on whether they
are capable of carrying out the new role, given a realistic level
of training. Staff at risk of redundancy are not required
to compete with external applicants.
Redundancies may also lead to questions of discrimination
on grounds of gender, race, sexual preference, disability or age,
whether or not this was the intention. Women returning to work after
materntity leave have special rights in this respect.
The Termination Procedure
Termination Procedure is based on the legal minimum procedure
in the Employment Act 2002 that must be followed in all cases where
notice is given. This is a minimum procedure, and managers
are not permitted to pay ‘lip service’ to it. In particular,
note that section 2.1 lists reasons for initiating consultation.
These are not sufficient conditions for deciding to make an individual
redundant. See fairness and avoidance above.
- If you are being made redundant, you should be notified that
you are at risk of redundancy, at a minimum 3 months (a possible
exception is some clinical contracts) prior to the contract end
date, and you should be invited to a meeting to investigate ways
to avoid redundancy.
- You can bring a union representative or colleague to this meeting.
- The manager is legally obliged to consult meaningfully with
you and your representative. This means that they must investigate
any possibility highlighted, and reconsider the redundancy if
evidence is presented to show that it would not be fair to proceed.
- Where issues have been identified that require further information
or consultation, the usual practice is that a second meeting be
held one week later, where the staff member and representative
The procedure also entitles you to challenge the redundancy through
a formal appeal process which is heard by a group of senior staff
appointed by HR.
If you are issued with notice you will then be permitted to put
your details on the Redeployment
Website. We advise all our members to put their details on this
website. As we commented above, doing so does not remove UCL's responsibility
to avoid your redundancy, but it may find you another job!
UCL Statute 18
UCL protects the employment rights of all lecturers, readers
and professors under Statute
18 of the College
This statute, justified by the Charter of the University to defend
Academic Freedom, requires a more lengthy and reputationally damaging
process to be undergone for UCL to dismiss a member of lecturing
staff - on grounds of redundancy or for any other reason.
UCL must set up a Redundancy Committee chaired by the Chair of
UCL Council to hear the case. Were this to happen this would represent
a major threat to the Academic Freedom of all lecturing staff, and
UCU would campaign vigorously and publically to persuade UCL to
change its mind.
There is one exception to this: UCL has a ‘standing Redundancy
Committee’ that can hear cases where fixed term lecturing
staff posts are ended. The staff affected by this are those contracted
soley to cover the sabbatical and maternity leave of other lecturers.
NOTE: Teaching Fellows, Senior Teaching Fellows and Principal
Teaching Fellows are not covered by Statute 18. Any lecturer
approached by their Head of Department to be 'reclassified' as a
Teaching Fellow must be informed that their security of employment
will be affected by this move.
We believe that as well as covering teaching staff, Statute 18
could be extended to cover established research staff, and that
this would be both proportionate and consistent with the aims of
the Statute. However at present, research staff can be made redundant
using the Termination Procedure.
The campaign continues...