NI: Blog: IFA case shows it is vital to prove a genuine redundancy exists

Maxine Orr

Redundancy within a workplace can arise where there is a diminution or cessation of the type of work that an employee carries out. That can arise as part of a restructuring, or where the duties of the post are redistributed among other staff, writes Maxine Orr.

Employers need to be extremely careful when undertaking a restructure, to ensure that a genuine redundancy exists.

In the case of Tracey Campbell versus Irish Football Association, the employment tribunal concluded that a mere reorganisation of roles did not, in the circumstances of this case, meet the test for redundancy and so the claimant was unfairly dismissed.

Ms Campbell was employed by the IFA as a commercial manager for over nine years.

Throughout this time she had worked at a high level, dealing with sponsors and sponsorship contracts on her own.

She had an unblemished record.

In January 2015, Ms O’Reilly was appointed as the new head of Ms Campbell’s department and immediately set about having one-to-one discussions with each member of staff.

Unbeknownst to the claimant at the time, she was being assessed on her abilities and performance throughout these discussions.

In June 2015, the claimant and four other members of staff were told that their roles were at risk of redundancy and that seven new roles had been created.

Of the seven new roles created, the job of sponsor activation manager was the closest match to the existing job held by the claimant.

The claimant applied for this job in July 2015 and was called for interview in September 2015. She was subsequently notified a few days later that she had been rejected for the job.

The claimant was the only internal candidate who had applied for this job.

The successful external candidate was an individual who Ms O’Reilly had worked with in another organisation for three years before joining the IFA.

Following the claimant’s unsuccessful interview for the new post she was dismissed for redundancy with effect from September 24.

The claimant appealed against the redundancy decision on October 5 and an appeal hearing took placed on October 9.

The claimant did not receive the outcome of the redundancy appeal until December 13, 2015.

The tribunal concluded that the redundancy process was predetermined and “was a sham, which was essentially driven by Ms O’Reilly in order to get rid of those she didn’t feel she could work with”. The Tribunal found there was no mention prior to Ms O’Reilly joining the organisation that a restructuring would be required or that redundancies may be necessary.

There was no auditing of existing staff, despite suggestions to the contrary.

The lack of documentation regarding the decision making process for the redundancies strongly indicated that there was no real assessment of staffing levels

Most notably, the tribunal accepted the claimant’s evidence that the new role of sponsor activation manager comprised 70 per cent of the duties she had already carried out and that the remaining duties were “hived off” to another role and this accounted for the remaining 30 per cent.

As such there was no redundancy situation at all, for a re-organisation of roles in itself does not meet the test for redundancy.

The tribunal concluded that there was no redundancy situation at all, and went to say that even if there had been a redundancy situation, the dismissal still would have been unfair as the respondent failed to take reasonable steps to redeploy the claimant to avoid redundancies and awarded the claimant £28,716.54.

NI: Blog: IFA case shows it is vital to prove a genuine redundancy exists

  • Maxine Orr is a specialist in employment law at Worthingtons Solicitors. This article first appeared in the Belfast Telegraph.
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