We recently took on a client who’d been accused of discrimination in the past, long before our involvement.
They’d gone through a redundancy process in which everyone in the F&B department was put “at risk”.
They went through the consultation period, did it by the book, and made one person redundant.
So far, so good, right?
Here’s the problem – that one person happened to be the only non-British employee: a Japanese chef.
They soon heard from him via ACAS, asking for £5,000 to drop his tribunal case.
The committee were livid – they’d done the right thing and yet they were still being accused of discrimination – so they decided to fight the case on principle.
Fast forward a few months, and they’re outside the courtroom, briefing the barrister, who couldn’t believe her ears and told them immediately that they should have settled for the £5,000.
In any case, she carried on doing her job, taking the house manager to one side and doing a mock cross-examination on the questions he’d be asked in court.
She was back very quickly indeed, making it clear that the only way she’d go into court for them was if they agreed to negotiate a settlement, which would be for a lot more than £5,000.
Well, she was diplomatic:
“Because the house manager has attitudes and opinions about non-British people that are unfortunately normal for someone of his age and background.”
She’d asked him why he’d chosen the Japanese chef for redundancy over everyone else, and nothing defendable had come out of the house manager’s mouth.
Employment law isn’t just about ‘doing things by the book’ – it’s also about how your actions will look to an independent observer.
If the only non-British/female/gay/pension-age person is made redundant, how will the judge see it?
In most cases, if a person who is at risk of redundancy has a protected characteristic, it’ll be quicker (and probably cheaper) to go straight to a settlement agreement rather than pretend your process is absolutely fair and reasonable.
Was there any silver lining to the case? Well, it didn’t drag on, so it was only one day they had to pay for the barrister!
If you’re making people redundant or considering restructuring, please talk to an expert before taking ANY action – our door is always open.