Q&A - How do we handle worker going off sick during redundancy consultation?

Q: We lost a couple of big contracts and as a result we have been forced to make some redundancies in order to keep the company commercially viable. Most of the lads have been understanding about the situation but one worker who is renowned for being difficult and demanding his rights has gone off sick in the middle of the consultation period. His sick note cites stress and depression, which of course he claims is our fault. Are we legally within our rights to continue with the process of his redundancy?

A: You had already begun the redundancy consultation process before he went off sick so the worker cannot claim he is being made redundant because he is off sick. If he is unable to attend consultation meetings because he is not at work you are legally within your rights to supply the relevant information in writing, or you could conduct the meetings with him by phone or perhaps on skype.

Commercial viability is a valid reason for redundancy and that is what you say has forced you to make the redundancy decision. It is the job not the worker that is being made redundant. You just need to demonstrate that your selection procedure has been fair, objective and non-discriminatory, as unfair selection for redundancy is a type of unfair dismissal – and someone who has been unfairly selected for redundancy may be able to claim compensation for unfair dismissal on top of redundancy pay.

Employment law is one of the fastest changing areas of law and it might therefore, for absolute peace of mind, be in your best interest to make an appointment with a specialist employment lawyer who can go through your particular circumstances with you and advise you on all the steps you need to be taking.