skip to main content

COVID-19 and redundancies: A quick guide

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) recently issued a bleak warning of the jobs crisis in the UK, stating autumn's Covid-19 redundancies could exceed 700,000.

This follows on from findings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirming gross domestic product (GDP) fell in the second quarter by 20.4% compared with the previous three months — making it the biggest quarterly decline since comparable records began in 1955.

How can coronavirus redundancies be avoided?

To answer this, it's essential to understand where things stand at present*. The government implemented the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in March 2020 to protect jobs and support businesses during and after the pandemic. There have been many changes to the scheme throughout the pandemic, but as it has been highlighted in the media, the furlough scheme has been very costly on the UK's economy.

The gradual unwinding of job protection schemes

Early on the government paid 80 per cent of an employee's wages, and the amount was lowered to 70 per cent in September, before being reduced to 60 per cent in October (with the cap falling from £2,500 to £1,875 in that time). With the CJRS set to end in November, Rishi Sunak recently outlined a wage subsidy scheme — "the Job Support Scheme (JSS)" — that will seek to avoid mass redundancies, meaning all "viable jobs" employees would have to work at least a third of their original hours and be paid as expected for this. People's wages will then be increased, covering two-thirds of the pay they lose from their work hours being reduced.

While the JSS will provide some much-needed relief to many businesses, many struggling companies may not be in a position to contribute that first third of wages, whilst some argue that this support has arrived too late, with redundancies already surging.

Does coronavirus change the redundancy process?

Every employee in the UK is entitled to the same redundancy rights, such as a right to pay and notice periods; however, employers may have to make some minor changes to the process in light of the pandemic, such as arranging virtual consultations as opposed to face-to-face meetings. Furthermore, employers may need to adapt their selection criteria to remain fair. For example, it would be unfair for a business to select an employee for redundancy because they are on furlough. It's up to the employer to ensure their selection criteria is non-discriminatory and fair, and commonly used standards include:

  • Performance;
  • Absence;
  • Length of service (last in, first out)
  • Disciplinary records

An employer may use a combination of criteria, such as a points system, to get an overall score. The law states that you must receive a reasonable notice period before being made redundant, which is currently:

  • At least one week if you've worked for your employer for between one month and two years.
  • One week for each year that you've been employed (if you've been employed for between two and 12 years).
  • 12 weeks' notice if you've been employed for 12 years or more. Your employment contract may specify more than this statutory minimum, but it can't set less.
  • Your contract may state that your employment can be ended without notice if 'payment in lieu of notice' is given. For example, if you should have received 12 weeks' notice but received none, you would be entitled to 12 weeks' pay (in addition to any redundancy payments you are owed).

Speak to Noble Solicitors

If you are at risk of redundancy or have been made redundant recently, it's essential to recognise that there are employment laws to ensure you're treated fairly. Noble Solicitors will fight for your rights every step of the way, ensuring you receive your entitled pay, while we can help you throughout the process. Our solicitor Paul Angel specialises in Employment Law, offering clear, straightforward advice when our clients need it. If you'd like to speak to Paul, you can find his contact details here, along with further information on his expertise and his many notable cases.

* Correct at the time of writing.

Read next article