Emma Parr reviews a recent Guernsey Employment Tribunal ruling that demonstrates how vital it is for employers to ensure their selection pool is correctly identified, selection criteria are objective and verifiable and that the consultation process should be genuine.
The redundancy process of Blanchelande College in Guernsey was recently thrown into the spotlight when a former maths teacher successfully won his claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.
Following its decision in October 2010 to suspend the College's sixth form as a costing cutting exercise, the College determined that all teaching staff could be affected by its decision (either because their post might no longer exist, or because their teaching hours may be reduced) and were placed in the pool for redundancy selection.
The Guernsey Tribunal ruled that any prerequisite of a fair redundancy process is to ensure that the pool for selection is correctly identified. In this case it was clear that by placing all 21 teachers into the pool, when only 3 were suitably qualified maths teachers, resulted in a pool that was fundamentally flawed from the outset. The College had created an incorrect pool.
In addition the Tribunal ruled that once a pool is correctly identified, the use of selection criteria should be objective and verifiable. Here, the College failed yet again.
By setting out in its selection criteria the need to assess the pool against "performance management records" when in fact evidence before the Tribunal clearly showed that the College rarely undertook staff appraisals and had no such records to assess, was only further evidence that the redundancy process was flawed.
Instead, the College sought to rely on the personal opinions of the then Principal Designate in determining who should and should not be offered a teaching post.
The Tribunal was very critical of the fact that among other factors a teacher's inability to work Fridays was considered a significant issue; that it was considered policy to give priority to those prepared to work full-time versus those only wanting to work part-time (itself a form of indirect sex discrimination); coupled with the fact that the College wanted to give preference to "strong female role models", were not considered to be appropriate objective and verifiable selection criteria. The teacher who won his claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination was male.
Cherry picking selection criteria to support its rationale for making this teacher redundant could not possibly result in a fair redundancy procedure.
The Tribunal also criticised the College for not following any genuine consultation process. While on the surface it appeared to invite proposals from the affected teachers, the proposal put forward by the teacher in question, which offered a potential timetabling solution, seemed to have been blatantly ignored; the truth of the matter was that he was to be made redundant regardless of any consultation, which brought the integrity of the process into serious doubt.
The decision of the Tribunal is not comfortable reading for the College and, unsurprisingly, it saw fit not to contest a similar action brought against it only a week later from another affected former employee. A redundancy process that did not engage in open consultation, determined an incorrect pool and favoured personal opinion over objective and verifiable criteria could not possibly result in a fair redundancy process.
This was one cost-cutting exercise for the College that proved rather expensive.
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