Q: My firm has said that it will seek volunteers for redundancy. Should I put myself forward?

A: While there is a risk that this will be seen as demonstrating a lack of commitment to the organisation, unless you hold a truly key position, most employers are pleased to have one less ‘compulsory’ to deal with. In some instances, staff are keen to be ‘on the market’ sooner, particularly if the economic situation worsens yet further.

Q: What am I entitled tot if I am accepted as a volunteer?

A: Some employees are fortunate in that their employers offer enhanced redundancy terms for volunteers, but strictly speaking, there is no entitlement to an enhancement of any sort. You are entitled to your note pay (usually those volunteering will not be required to work all of that period), and if you have more than two years’ continuous service you will be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment.

Q: If my employer decides to make a payment in lieu of my notice period can I insist on its being paid to me gross and without deduction of tax and national insurance?

A: No, generally you are only entitled to be paid your net loss and if your employer accounts to HMRC for the normal statutory deductions the only recourse is to claim any overpaid tax at the end of the tax year.

Q: My employer has selected my department for savage cuts, but I want to challenge this as there is another department which is less profitable than we are.

A: As a generally rule an employer can decide which areas to support and which to cut. A bad business decision will not normally amount to unfair dismissal. However, if an employee can show that there was some other ‘discriminatory’ motivation in making the decision to make the cuts so as to target particular groups or individuals then this might be subject to challenge.

Q: An employee who is on maternity leave has been ‘promised’ a job even before the assessment of the rest of the team has been completed. Surely this ‘reverse discrimination’ is unfair?

A: The law relating to the dismissal of pregnant employees is complex. However, as a general rule the law nowadays seeks to give a high degree of protection to pregnant employees and recent mums. This special protection against dismissal may lead to a job being ‘earmarked’ for a pregnant employee in the manner you describe.

Q: I have been presented with a compromise agreement. Why do I have to take independent advice?

A: The primary purpose of a compromise agreement is to ensure an effective settlement of all employment claims by the employee, nearly always in return for a payment of money. Parliament has decided that because an employee will be waiving statutory employment rights, that there must be adequate safeguards in place. The two most important of these is that the agreement must be in writing and that the employee must have independent legal advice as to the impact on the individual’s rights should they sign the agreement.