Redundancy | Acas sees surge in call volume as COVID-19 bites

Acas sees surge in call volume as COVID-19 bites

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, new reports of job cuts hit headlines almost every day.

Yesterday the BBC reported that WHSmith, a mainstay of the UK highstreet since the 1800s, would be slashing 1,500 jobs due to plummeting sales.

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Also this week, Insider Media reported that Pizza Express revealed plans to close 67 restaurants which would put 1,100 jobs at risk.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that calls from firms and distressed employees to Acas’ redundancy advice hotline almost tripled in June and July, as fears over job losses surrounded the winding down of the Government’s job retention scheme.

Acas confirmed this week that calls to the helpline to discuss the options that employees have when given redundancy rose by nearly 170% in the two months following May, from around 12,000 to more than 33,000 calls.

"At the moment, nearly a third of calls to our helpline are redundancy-related,” Acas’ Chief Executive Susan Clews told the BBC.

"The economic impact of coronavirus, alongside fears around the furlough scheme tapering off, has left many employers and their staff concerned about their future livelihoods," Clews added.

Figures from the UK Government show that 9.6million jobs have been furloughed as a result of the economic downturn that coronavirus caused.

The overall cost of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has currently totalled around £33.8billion. The scheme is set to end in October, casting much doubt on the health of the UK jobs market this Autumn.

Official guidance from the CIPD said that “redundancy should be a last resort”.

“It can be one of the most distressing events an employee can experience. It requires sensitive handling by the employer to ensure fair treatment of redundant employees as well as the productivity and morale of the remaining workforce. Redundancy legislation and case law is complex, and employers must understand their obligations, including employees' rights and the correct procedures to follow,” it added.

How should HR handle redundancy?

The CIPD explained that, even during the coronavirus crisis, the usual process for redundancies must be followed. This means following the organisation's own procedure and all pre-conceived stages including consideration of alternatives, meaningful individual and collective consultation, selection pools and scoring, appeals, redundancy and notice period payments plus counselling and support.

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