Reality:

Bumping is the process of moving a potentially redundant employee into another role, and dismissing the employee currently performing that role. Whilst that is likely to appear to be unfair to the person “bumped” out of a job, their dismissal is treated as a redundancy and if they have at least two years’ service, they are entitled to receive a redundancy payment.

Redundancy is a potentially fair reason for dismissing an employee. This means that even if you can demonstrate that your decision to dismiss someone was, for example, because you need less people to do certain work, you must also show that your decision to dismiss for this reason falls within what is known as the “band of reasonable responses.” Your actions will be judged by reference to the size of your organisation and the administrative resources open to it. So, generally, more will be expected of larger employers.

You must follow a fair procedure when making redundancies, which will involve consulting with the employee and considering if there are any other suitable roles that he/she can undertake as an alternative to being made redundant. As part of this process, many employers will circulate details of their current job vacancies and will invite the employee to indicate if they are interested in any of these.

Sometimes as part of this process, the “at-risk” employee may suggest that they should be offered a job that someone in your organisation is already doing (and wishes to continue to do so). In other words, they may suggest that person is “bumped” from their job so that they can do it instead. Whilst this may sound outlandish, you must not dismiss the request out of hand and should consider whether it would be appropriate to agree. Relevant considerations (particularly if the job is of a lower grade than currently enjoyed by the employee at risk of redundancy) are:

  • Whether or not there are other vacancies in your organisation that the bumped employee can be offered
  • How different the two jobs are
  • The difference in remuneration between the two jobs
  • The relative length of service of the two employees (although you need to be careful not to reach decisions that could be considered to discriminate on the grounds of age of either employee)
  • The qualifications of the employee at risk of redundancy
  • Whether or not the other employee would take voluntary redundancy.

However, there is no rule that requires you to always consider bumping (either of your own volition or in response to a specific request) to demonstrate that you have acted fairly.

If you do consider bumping but reject it, keep a record of the reasons for your decision to demonstrate your thought process. This will help you to defend any claim of unfair dismissal.