Navigating redundancy in Ireland: Legal obligations and best practices 

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Many companies in Ireland are currently grappling with restructuring challenges, including the implementation of new processes or systems, advancements in technology such as AI, or complete business closures, as they strive to adapt and evolve in the current economic climate, writes Caroline Reidy 



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2 July 2024

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Redundancy, as defined by the Redundancy Payments Acts of 1967 – 2007, is the termination of an employee’s contract of employment by reason of the employer ceasing to carry on the business for which the employee was employed, or ceasing to carry on that business in the place where the employee was employed, or the requirement for employees to carry out work of a particular kind has ceased or diminished, or is expected to cease or diminish. 

One of the fundamental pillars anchoring the redundancy process is the consultation phase, which serves as a vital bridge between employers and affected employees. This phase, enshrined in Irish employment law, imposes a legal obligation on employers to proactively engage in robust and meaningful discussions with those whose roles are at risk of redundancy. It is during this critical juncture that employers must create an environment for open dialogue, providing ample opportunity for employees to voice their concerns, seek clarification, and explore potential alternatives to redundancy. 

Transparency and inclusivity 

By fostering a culture of transparency and inclusivity, the consultation phase not only empowers employees but also demonstrates a commitment to fairness and respect for their contributions.Moreover, this collaborative approach serves to mitigate risks for both employees and the business, fostering trust and goodwill even amidst challenging circumstances.  

When embarking on the challenging task of selecting employees for redundancy, companies are duty-bound to adhere to a rigorous framework of reasonable and objective criteria. This commitment to fairness and consistency not only upholds the principles of natural justice but also serves to safeguard against potential legal challenges.  

Pivotal case  

In the pivotal case of Byrne v. Ryanair DAC (2019), the High Court stressed the need for fair selection criteria in redundancy decisions. Ruling in favor of the plaintiff, it reinforced the importance of transparency and equity, urging employers to mitigate legal risks through impartial selection processes. 

Moreover, as well as legal requirements, employers are encouraged to explore every possible avenue to mitigate the need for redundancy. This includes proactive efforts to identify and offer alternative roles within the organisation, as well as providing access to reskilling or retraining opportunities. By prioritizing the welfare and professional development of their workforce, employers not only demonstrate a genuine commitment to employee well-being but also foster a culture of loyalty and mutual respect. Offering affected employees, a trial period to assess alternative roles not only aligns with legal requirements but also provides a practical mechanism for individuals to evaluate their suitability for new positions. This collaborative and supportive approach not only enhances employee morale but also strengthens the organisation’s reputation as a responsible and compassionate employer, even in times of organisational change. While redundancy is a legitimate business decision, employers must navigate the legal complexities to avoid potential disputes.  

Unfair Dismissals 

The Unfair Dismissals Act provides recourse for employees who believe they have been unfairly selected for redundancy. Consequently, employers must ensure that redundancy decisions are based on genuine operational needs and applied fairly and transparently to all affected employees. Awards of up to two years’ salary can apply under this legislation, whereby complaints are deemed to be founded. An employer must also consider associated costs with preparing for WRC submissions for complaints on top of potential awards. 

Under the unfair dismissal’s legislation, selection for redundancy based on certain specific grounds is considered unfair. These include redundancy as the result of an employee’s trade union activity and any of the protected nine grounds outlined in the Employment Equality Acts.   

Employees seeking redundancy payments must meet specific eligibility criteria, including a minimum period of continuous service of 104 weeks. It’s important for employers to understand these requirements and ensure compliance with contractual notice periods to avoid disputes over entitlements. 

In cases of collective redundancies, where a significant number of employees are affected, additional legal obligations come into play. Employers must engage in timely and comprehensive consultation with employee representatives, addressing key aspects such as reasons for redundancy, selection criteria, and payment calculations. Failure to adhere to these requirements can result in legal challenges and financial penalties for the organisation. 

‘Delicate balance’ 

Navigating redundancy requires a delicate balance of legal compliance, empathy, and strategic decision-making. By adhering to best practices, businesses can navigate this challenging terrain with integrity while safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders.  

In conclusion, navigating redundancy requires a delicate balance of legal compliance, empathy, and strategic decision-making. By adhering to best practices and prioritising transparency and fairness, businesses can navigate this challenging terrain with integrity, safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders involved. Ultimately, by understanding legal obligations, engaging in transparent consultation, and offering support to affected employees, organisations can navigate redundancy with integrity and compassion, emerging stronger and more resilient in the face of change. 



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