Acas, the conciliation and arbitration service, has published new guidance giving employers advice about how to handle small-scale redundancies, which will also be of interest to unions.

“Handling small-scale redundancies - a step-by-step guide” is aimed particularly at small and medium sized businesses when making fewer than 20 people redundant.

Acas advises employers to first consider alternatives to redundancies such as: offering flexible working; stopping recruitment; retraining staff; or reducing or ending overtime depending on contracts.

However, if the employer cannot avoid making a small group of employees redundant, Acas recommends that they draw up the following seven step plan:

  • Brief managers - make sure they are prepared, trained and informed to effectively handle a testing situation
  • Talk to staff - it is a legal requirement to consult individually with all affected staff, not just those who might face redundancy
  • Choose staff for redundancy carefully - have clear criteria for which posts may need to go and how people will be selected
  • Talk about redundancy notice and pay - this can reassure staff and help business planning
  • Think about notice period rights - check what time off employees can have to look for other work
  • Allow staff to appeal against their selection for redundancy
  • Focus on the future of the business - manage change and make the best of the remaining staff for the future of the business.

The online guide also includes a legal checklist, answers to frequently asked questions and practical examples of common workplace scenarios.

The law says there is a genuine redundancy situation if an employee is dismissed because the business as a whole, or the particular workplace where the employee worked, has closed down. Likewise, if the employer decides to reduce the size of the workforce to do work of a particular kind. Following a recent case the same is true where the overall head count remains the same, but the number of Full-time Equivalent (FTE) positions have reduced.

A large-scale or collective redundancy is when an employer proposes to make 20 or more employees redundant within 90 days (this includes volunteers, and staff who are eventually successfully redeployed). Where more than 100 employees are proposed to be dismissed as redundant, consultation must start at least 45 days before the dismissal. Unlike collective redundancies, there is no fixed period of consultation required for small-scale redundancies outside those criteria.

Iain Birrell from Thompsons Solicitors commented: “Any measures which are designed to promote fairness at work have to be welcomed. Trade unions and their members are weary of employers’ claims that the law is too complicated and weighted against them. This guide is another resource for those employers and it shows that staying the right side of the law is simply a matter of being prepared, being thoughtful and being fair.

To access step one of the guide, go to: