The Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld a tribunal’s decision strongly criticising a redundancy selection process that relied heavily on a series of exercises designed for use in recruitment and which took no account of past performance. The employment tribunal had been entitled to conclude that the two claimants had been unfairly dismissed as a result.

Although attendance and disciplinary records were also taken into account, employees’ performance in a competency assessment designed by the employer’s HR department was the decisive selection criterion. This comprised a written exercise, an interview and a verbal group assessment, all of which were given equal weighting. None of the team conducting the assessments had any experience of working with the individuals being assessed. In evidence before the tribunal, managers accepted that this process had produced surprising results, with some very good workers being selected for redundancy. However they thought that they had adopted “such a fair and transparent process” that they had to accept the outcome.

The EAT observed that they were not surprised that the tribunal thought that a blind faith in process had led the employer in this case to lose touch with common sense and fairness. The lesson for employers is that while the goal of avoiding subjectivity and bias is desirable, it can come at too high a price. In most cases it will be appropriate to give at least some weight to the opinions of managers who know the employees’ work best.