Insensitive redundancy consultation may result in an unfair dismissal

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) demonstrates the need to undertake redundancy consultations with care and sensitivity.   

Mr Thomas, a director with 41 years’ service with BNP Paribas, was placed at risk of redundancy and eventually made redundant. From the start of the consultation process, Mr Thomas was placed on garden leave and told not to contact customers or colleagues. Following several other blunders including sending him a letter addressed “Dear Paul” despite his first name being Peter, Mr Thomas brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

At first instance, the Employment Tribunal held that whilst there were errors in the process, the dismissal was ultimately fair. Mr Thomas appealed.

Whilst the EAT agreed that in principle a flawed redundancy process did not automatically equal an unfair dismissal, it was particularly troubled by the Tribunal’s lack of reasoning behind its decision-particularly when it had deemed the consultation process insensitive and perfunctory.  The matter has been sent to a fresh Tribunal for consideration. Nevertheless, this case is an important reminder that a consultation process is not just a tick box exercise. Sensitivity and accuracy should be at the forefront of employer’s minds when conducting a redundancy exercise. It goes without saying that employers should not act in a way that suggests a foregone conclusion either.