Collective redundancy consultation representatives
If your employer is thinking about making redundancies they should consult with employees. If they are considering making 20 or more employees redundant they are required to consult in advance with representatives of the affected employees and to notify the projected redundancies to the Department for Employment and Learning. The employer must begin the process of consultation in good time and complete the process before any redundancy notices are issued.
Trade union representatives
If you are represented by a recognised trade union in your workplace, then your employer must consult with an authorised official from that trade union.
This could be a:
- shop steward
- district union official
- national or regional official (if appropriate)
- Trade unions
The employer is not required to inform and consult any other employee representatives in such circumstances, but may do so voluntarily if desired. A trade union may be recognised for one group of employees in a company, but not for another.
If your employer does not recognise a trade union or you work in part of the company that is not represented by a recognised trade union then your employer should make arrangements to allow you to elect representatives. These representatives will take part in the consultation on your behalf.
The representatives could be existing representatives (for example those involved in ongoing information and consultation arrangements) or they could be specially elected for this consultation.
The representatives must have the authority to represent you and must be fit for the task. For example, it would not be appropriate for a committee set up to discuss the operation of a staff canteen to be consulted about redundancies amongst sales staff. It would be appropriate to inform and consult representatives elected or appointed as a result of The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005.
In a case where employee representatives are to be specially elected, the employer will need to ensure that the election is completed and the representatives are in place (having had an opportunity for appropriate training if necessary) in time to allow the consultation process to be completed before any redundancy notices are issued.
The rules for the election of employee representatives are:
- the employer shall make such arrangements as are reasonably practical to ensure that the election is fair
- the employer shall determine the number of representatives to be elected so that there are sufficient representatives to represent the interests of all the affected employees, having regard to the number and classes of those employees
- the employer shall determine whether the affected employees should be represented either by representatives of all the affected employees or by representatives of particular classes of those employees
- before the election the employer shall determine the term of office as employee representatives so that it is of sufficient length to enable relevant information to be given and consultations to be completed
- the candidates for election as employee representatives are affected employees on the date of the election
- no affected employee is unreasonably excluded from standing for election
- all affected employees on the date of the election are entitled to vote for employee representatives
- the employees entitled to vote may vote for as many candidates as there are representatives to be elected to represent them; or, if there are to be representatives for particular classes of employees, for as many candidates as there are representatives to be elected to represent their particular class of employee
- the election is conducted so as to secure that - so far as is reasonably practicable, those voting do so in secret; and the votes given at the election are accurately counted
Any employee who is affected by the proposed redundancies can stand for election as an employee representative. All affected employees are entitled to vote in the election for representatives and can vote for as many candidates as there will be representatives to represent them. If you are not represented by a recognised trade union and you do not elect representatives to be consulted then your employer can consult you directly.
Rights of employees and representatives
Employees and employee representatives have certain rights and protections. These allow them to fully take part in the consultation process. Your employer cannot dismiss you or subject you to a detriment (for example, by not giving you a pay rise or cutting your hours) if you take part in an election to become a representative or for fulfilling your duties as a representative.
If you are a representative, your employer is required to allow you reasonable access to the people you represent and to certain facilities, for example a telephone, to allow you to represent them effectively. An employer must therefore disclose certain information in writing.
This must be:
- handed to each of the appropriate representatives
- sent by post to an address notified to the employer, or in the case of a trade union, to the address of the union’s head or main office
You also have a right to reasonable paid time off for your representative duties. What is considered ‘reasonable’ will differ in each circumstance.
If you are dismissed or suffer detriment for standing for election as a representative or acting as a representative then you may be able to make a claim to an Industrial Tribunal.
Where to get help
If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, support and advice from them.