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Avoiding Discrimination in Workplace Planning

on Friday, 21 August 2020.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published research revealing that young people (18 to 24) and those over 50 are at a higher risk of losing their jobs in the current economic crisis. BAME workers were reported to be twice as likely to...

... lose their job compared to peers in the above groups. 

Designing a Fair Process

Workforce planning is a challenging and unenviable task for many employers. These statistics reinforce the importance of designing a fair and robust procedure prior to embarking on any workplace planning exercise. In particular, employers should consider:

  • Selection pools - Avoid the trap of considering previously furloughed staff first for redundancy. For example, if staff were furloughed due to health or childcare related reasons, this could lead to claims of discrimination and unfair dismissal.
  • Selection criteria - Objective selection criteria should be designed at the outset of any redundancy or restructure exercise. Draft criteria should be shared with affected staff during consultation and comments invited before the criteria are then finalised and used.
  • Timing - Consultation should be meaningful and not rushed. For smaller exercises, there is no minimum consultation timeframe, but there will be minimum periods of time between the start of consultation and any dismissals taking effect if more than 20 redundancies are being considered at a single establishment within a 90 day period.
  • Logistics - Some consultation meetings continue to take place remotely. Care should be taken to ensure that any remote consultation meetings do not create fairness issues in and of themselves. For example, is software accessible, can the employee's chosen companion attend, and has it been possible to prepare properly?
  • Personnel - Where decisions have to be made to retain some staff and let others go, consider the personnel making the decisions. In particular, are the same people applying the selection criteria consistently? Are more senior managers reserved to deal with any future appeals?

Coronavirus guidance employers

Next Steps For Employers

Many employers are having to plan restructures and redundancies to ensure the survival of their businesses. Our Employment Law team can provide a range of advice and services to support you in following a fair procedure.


For specialist legal advice and support with your workforce planning, please contact Bob Fahy in our Employment team on 07500 686 163, or complete the form below.

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