Collective redundancies arise where, during any period of 30 consecutive days, the number of employees being made redundant reaches a given proportion of the total employee population i.e.
• 5 employees where 21-49 are employed
• 10 employees where 50-99 are employed
• 10% of the employees where 100-299 are employed
• 30 employees where 300 or more are employed
In such a situation, under the Protection of Employment Act, 1977 the employer is obliged to enter into consultations with employee representatives “with a view to reaching agreement”.
The employee representatives may be shop stewards and union representatives in a unionised environment or employees voted to act as representatives from the employee group potentially affected by the proposed redundancies.
The consultations must take place at the earliest opportunity and at least 30 days before the first redundancy takes effect.
The aim of the consultation is to consider whether there are any alternatives to the proposed redundancies.
These talks must include the possibility of avoiding the proposed redundancies (or reducing the numbers affected by them) as well as discussion as to how it will be decided who will be made redundant i.e. the selection criteria/process.
Case law from the EU has meant that the consultation process must have concluded before any redundancy notices can issue to the employees i.e. if an employer chooses to announce the number of employees who are to be made redundant and only then commences consultations with the Union / employee representatives, it may well be in breach of consultation obligations under the 1977 Act.
The employer must also notify the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment at the earliest opportunity – but not later than 30 days prior to the first redundancy takes effect – of a redundancy situation.
When an employer is consulting their employees as required by the Act, the employer must supply the employee’s representatives with all relevant information relating to the proposed redundancies.
This includes (but is not limited to):
(a) The reason for the proposed redundancies
(b) The number and descriptions or categories of employees whom it is proposed to make redundant
(c) The number of employees and description of categories, normally employed
(d) The period during which it is proposed to effect the proposed redundancies
(e) The criteria proposed for the selection of the workers to be made redundant
(f) The method of calculating any redundancy payments other than those methods set out in the Redundancy Payment Acts, 1967-2003.