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Are employers required to give notice of termination?

Employers must provide notice of termination. The required notice period is usually set out as an express term in the employment contract; however, where no written employment contract or express term dealing with notice in the written contract exists, there will be an implied term to give reasonable notice.

Employees are entitled to a statutory minimum notice period of one week after they have been employed for more than one month but less than two years. After two years of employment, employees are entitled to an additional week's notice for each complete year of service, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Where the contractual notice period exceeds the statutory minimum, the contractual period will prevail.

What are the rules that govern redundancy procedures?

For a redundancy dismissal to be fair, the employer must establish that there is a genuine redundancy situation and that it acted reasonably in treating the situation as a sufficient reason to justify dismissal. Acting reasonably includes the requirement to follow a fair and reasonable redundancy procedure.

A fair and reasonable procedure will depend on the circumstances of each case; however, it usually involves:

  • making a fair assessment of which roles are at risk of redundancy;
  • using a fair and objective method of selecting which individuals are to be put at risk of redundancy; and
  • consulting with the affected individuals about the proposed redundancy, the selection process and any potential alternatives to redundancy (eg, alternative roles within the employer's organisation). 

Are there particular rules for collective redundancies/mass layoffs?

Where 20 or more employees are being made redundant over a period of 90 days or less, an employer has a duty (under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992) to inform and consult appropriate employee representatives and notify the secretary of state.

Whenever there is an obligation to consult collectively, the employer must also ensure that it has followed a fair procedure in relation to individuals – including consulting with them properly – in order to minimise unfair dismissal claims.

What protections do employees have on dismissal?

Employees are protected against wrongful and unfair dismissal.

An employee may bring a claim for wrongful dismissal if his or her employer terminates the employment contract in breach of its terms (eg, without giving the notice period specified in the contract).

Employees who have been employed continuously with the same employer for two years also have the right not be dismissed unfairly. A dismissal will be considered unfair, unless the employer can establish that the reason or principal reason for the dismissal was potentially fair and that it acted reasonably in treating that reason as sufficient to justify dismissal (this involves the dismissal being both procedurally and substantively fair).

There are five potentially fair statutory reasons for dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996:

  • conduct;
  • capability;
  • redundancy;
  • breach of a statutory restriction; and
  • some other substantial reason (eg, refusal to accept changes to terms and conditions of employment or a breakdown in trust and confidence).

Employees who do not have two years' continuous service with their employer can bring an automatic unfair dismissal claim in certain circumstances. For example, where the dismissal relates to a protected disclosure made by the employee (eg, whistleblowing) or his or her membership in a trade union.

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