Should employers consider furlough before redundancies?
It’s no surprise that we are now starting to see the consequences of the furlough scheme and its arguably slightly hasty implementation. Whilst the furlough scheme will shortly be coming to an end, it should still be considered over the next month if employers are looking at making redundancies, as the following case shows…
In the case of Mhindurwa v Loving Angels Care Ltd, the Claimant was employed as a live-in carer to look after one individual. Unfortunately, the patient was taken into full-time care and as such, the Claimant’s role was therefore no longer required. The role technically became redundant.
As a consequence, the Respondent made the decision to make the Claimant redundant as other care positions that were available were too far for her to travel. However, rather than being made redundant, the Claimant asked if she could instead be placed on furlough as the Respondent often had care vacancies which would involve less travel for the Claimant.
Unfortunately for the Respondent, they dismissed this request and instead commenced the redundancy process.
The Claimant clearly wasn’t happy with this decision and brought proceedings in the Employment Tribunal. The Judge held that the dismissal was unfair on the basis that the Respondent should have considered the Claimant’s request to be placed on furlough, which would have avoided the need for redundancy at that time.
The Judge further stated that whilst there might not have been any suitable work for the Claimant at the time of the redundancy, they should have factored in that that could have changed, and a position could have become available whilst the Claimant was on furlough leave.
Whilst this decision is only first instance and therefore not binding, it highlights that employers should consider alternatives to redundancies, such as furlough prior to making decisions to dismiss. For the avoidance of doubt, we are strongly of the view that it is potentially fair to make an employee redundant while furlough was available, the key is that the decision must be reasonable and they must have considered alternatives.
If you would like any further advice on either the furlough scheme or redundancies, please get in touch with a member of the team on 01752 292201.