Can redundancy consultations be carried out remotely?Posted in : First Tuesday Q&A NI on 3 November 2020
Yes, there is no statutory requirement for redundancy consultations to be carried out face-to-face. However, consultation conducted remotely must ensure that consultation is fair and meaningful. Consultation should also begin when redundancy proposals are at a formative stage. In practice this means the employers should consider:
(a) The proposed remote method of consultation. Typically, video is better because it enables body language to be observed and a more personable interaction to take place. However, this will not always be possible and meaningful consultation can take place via telephone.
(b) If collective consultation obligations are triggered. If employers are proposing to dismiss 20 or more employees within a 90-day period, employee representatives or trade union representatives will need to be consulted on behalf of the affected employees. This could mean that employee representatives first need to be elected.
(c) Confidentiality. Conducting redundancy consultation meetings remotely leaves scope for confidentiality to be abused. It would be prudent to ensure that the position in relation to recording meetings along with general confidentiality requirements are addressed prior to meetings commencing.
(d) Timing. Employers should factor in possible logistical issues that could mean more time is needed for redundancy consultation to take place. This is particularly important in collective redundancy scenarios where consultation must begin 30 days before the first dismissal is due to take effect (or 90 if more than 100 employees are affected).
If you are facing a redundancy scenario, it would be prudent to obtain specific legal advice.
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