Understanding Compulsory Redundancy and Best Practices

employee packing up his office due to compulsory redundancy

This guide aims to provide clear, straightforward look at compulsory redundancy together with advice to help you navigate these challenging decisions with confidence.

What is compulsory redundancy?

Compulsory redundancy occurs when an employer must reduce their workforce because a job or several jobs are no longer needed. Unlike voluntary redundancy, where employees choose to leave in exchange for a benefits package, compulsory redundancy is not a choice for those affected.

This method is typically seen as a last resort and can be more distressing for employees, as it doesn't offer them an option to stay.

Overview of legal requirements

In the UK, the process of managing compulsory redundancies is regulated under the Employment Rights Act 1996 along with various updates and statutory instruments that guide employers through the process. The key legal obligations include:


Employers must engage in meaningful consultation with employees at risk of redundancy. This involves explaining the reasons for potential redundancies, discussing alternatives, and considering employees' feedback. For 20 or more redundancies within a 90-day period, the consultation must also involve trade union representatives or elected employee representatives and last at least 30 days. For 100 or more redundancies, the consultation period extends to 45 days.

Fair selection criteria:

The criteria for selecting employees for redundancy must be fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory. Commonly used criteria include seniority, disciplinary record, skills, or experience. Employers must carefully document the reasons for each choice to protect against claims of unfair dismissal.

Notice periods:

Employees must be given a notice period before their employment ends, ranging from one week's pay for those who have been employed between one month and two years, to a maximum of 12 weeks’ notice for those employed for 12 years or more.

Redundancy pay:

Employees with at least two years’ service are entitled to statutory redundancy pay, which is calculated based on their age, weekly pay, and length of service. The redundancy payments service provides a ready reckoner for employers to calculate what is owed.

Offering alternative employment:

Where possible, employers should consider whether there are any alternative roles in the company that those selected for redundancy could fill. Refusing a suitable alternative role can affect an employee's entitlement to redundancy pay.

Adhering to these requirements not only ensures legal compliance but also helps maintain fairness and transparency, which can mitigate the negative impact on employee morale and the company's reputation.

What are the common reasons for compulsory redundancy?

Companies may face several situations where reducing the number of employees becomes unavoidable. Here are six common reasons:

  • Economic downturns: When the economy struggles, businesses may see a drop in demand for their products or services, leading to reduced revenue and the need to cut costs through layoffs.

  • Technological changes: Advances in technology can make certain job roles obsolete. For example, automated systems may replace manual tasks, reducing the need for human labor.

  • Business reorganization: Companies might decide to reorganize their operations to improve efficiency or focus on different areas. This can result in job functions being eliminated or relocated.

  • Mergers and acquisitions: When companies merge or are bought by others, overlapping roles can make some positions unnecessary, leading to compulsory redundancies.

  • Outsourcing: Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective for businesses to outsource functions to third parties. This can lead to compulsory redundancies if certain skills are no longer required in-house.

  • Regulatory changes: New laws or regulations can affect how companies operate, potentially making some roles redundant. For example, new environmental laws might lead to the discontinuation of certain products or services.

What is an effective and ethical process of compulsory redundancy?

An effective and ethical compulsory redundancy process ensures that the decisions made are not only legally compliant but also fair and transparent, minimizing distress for both the affected employees and those remaining. Here are six crucial steps to manage this process:

1. Assessing the need for redundancy

Before beginning the compulsory redundancy process, it's essential to clearly establish and document the need for making positions redundant. This step is crucial for justifying the reasons behind the decision and for explaining it to the affected individuals.

  • Identify economic reasons: Whether it’s a downturn, operational costs reduction, or technological changes, document the specific reasons.

  • Review financial data: Analyze budgets, financial forecasts, and revenue reports to support the decision.

  • Consider alternatives: Before proceeding, consider less drastic measures such as offering voluntary redundancy, reducing hours, or other cost-saving strategies.

2. Developing a redundancy plan

A structured plan is vital to execute compulsory redundancies. This plan outlines how the process will be carried out, ensuring consistency and fairness throughout.

  • Set clear objectives: Define what the redundancy plan aims to achieve.

  • Outline the process: From consultation to final exits, detail each step.

  • Determine criteria for redundancy: Establish fair selection criteria based on factors like length of service, skills, or performance.

3. Consulting with trade unions and employees

Effective consultation involves communicating with trade unions and employees about the proposed redundancies. This not only meets legal requirements but also aids transparency.

  • Schedule meetings: Arrange meetings with trade union representatives and employee groups.

  • Provide detailed information: Share the reasons for redundancies and the planned approach to the process.

  • Gather feedback: Use these discussions to consider employee suggestions and address their concerns.

4. Selecting employees for redundancy

Selecting employees for redundancy must be carried out with fairness, using the established criteria. This helps in maintaining a transparent process and mitigating risks of disputes.

  • Apply the criteria consistently: Ensure the selection criteria are applied fairly to all employees.

  • Document decisions: Keep detailed records of how decisions were made to defend against any claims of unfair dismissal.

  • Offer support: Provide support services like counseling or career advice to those selected.

5. Providing notice and redundancy payments

Notice and redundancy payments are not just legal requirements but also part of respecting the employee's service and easing their transition.

  • Issue redundancy notices: Provide a clear redundancy notice as per the statutory notice period requirements.

  • Calculate redundancy payments: Use the redundancy payments service to ensure correct statutory redundancy pay based on the employee's age, weekly pay, and length of service.

  • Communicate clearly: Explain the payment calculations and timelines to the employees.

6. Offering support and transition services

Supporting employees through the transition is a hallmark of an ethical redundancy process. It reflects the organization's commitment to its workforce's well-being.

  • Career transition services: Offer services such as resume writing, interview coaching, and job search assistance.

  • Mental health support: Provide access to counseling services to help manage the stress of redundancy.

  • Feedback opportunities: Allow exiting employees to provide feedback on the process, which can help improve future redundancies.

What is redundancy payment?

manager calculating PTO accrual of employees using laptop and calculator

Redundancy payment is compensation provided to employees who are dismissed through no fault of their own under a redundancy situation, such as a business closure or a significant reduction in workforce.

This payment is intended to ease the financial burden on employees as they search for new employment. In the UK, redundancy payments are governed by specific legal standards to ensure fairness and adequacy.

Calculating redundancy payments

Redundancy payment calculations are based on the employee’s age, length of service, and weekly pay, up to a maximum limit. The formula for calculating statutory redundancy pay includes:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year of service where the employee was under the age of 22.

  • One week’s pay for each full year of service where the employee was aged 22 or above, but under 41.

  • One and a half week’s pay for each full year of service where the employee was 41 or older.

The amount of weekly pay is capped at a certain amount, and the maximum statutory redundancy pay is also subject to a ceiling. These figures are updated periodically to reflect changes in average wages and inflation.

Types of redundancy payments

  • Statutory redundancy payment: This is the minimum amount that employers must legally provide to eligible employees. The eligibility criteria include having been with the company for at least two years.

  • Contractual redundancy pay: Some employers may offer redundancy pay that exceeds the statutory minimum. This is often detailed in the employment contract or the employee handbook.

  • Voluntary redundancy package: In cases of voluntary redundancy, where employees are offered the option to leave in exchange for enhanced redundancy pay, the packages can be more generous than statutory requirements. This is often used as an incentive to encourage employees to volunteer, thus avoiding the need for compulsory redundancies.

Voluntary vs compulsory redundancy

Understanding the difference between voluntary and compulsory redundancy is crucial for both employers and employees:

Voluntary redundancy:

Occurs when an employer offers employees the option to volunteer for redundancy in exchange for certain benefits, often including a voluntary redundancy package that exceeds statutory redundancy pay.

This process can help reduce the workforce amicably without forcing layoffs. Employees who opt for voluntary redundancy may also receive additional perks such as extended health benefits or support in finding new employment.

Compulsory redundancy:

Happens when an employer must make positions redundant due to economic pressures, technological changes, or organizational restructuring, and the employees do not have the option to volunteer. Compulsory redundancies are typically less favorable because they do not offer the employee a choice and can lead to feelings of bitterness or unfair treatment.

In both scenarios, employers need to ensure that the process is conducted fairly and transparently, offering suitable alternative employment where possible to mitigate the impact of redundancy. Employers must also adhere to a fair selection process and provide adequate notice periods and redundancy payments to affected employees.

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Navigating through compulsory redundancy requires a well-planned and compassionate approach. By understanding the legal framework, engaging in transparent consultations, and following a fair process, employers can manage redundancies ethically and effectively.

Whether dealing with voluntary or compulsory redundancies, it's crucial to provide adequate redundancy payments and support to help affected employees transition smoothly.

By adhering to these principles, businesses can maintain trust and minimize the negative impacts on their workforce during these challenging times.

Topic: HRM
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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