Redundancy consultations – getting it right
In Thomas v BNP Paribas Real Estate Advisory the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) concluded that a “perfunctory and insensitive” redundancy consultation is likely to make a redundancy dismissal unfair.
Mr Thomas, Director of the property management division, had a 40 year length of service with BNP. Following a strategic review, BNP established that the business had too many senior managers. BNP met with Mr Thomas on 6 January 2016 and informed him that he was at risk of redundancy. Mr Thomas was immediately placed on garden leave and was told not to contact any clients or colleagues.
BNP wrote to Mr Thomas but addressed the letter incorrectly, saying “Dear Paul” when Mr Thomas’ first name is Peter. When the consultation process ended on 14 February 2016, Mr Thomas was served with a notice of redundancy. The termination date in the notice was incorrect and this had to be corrected with a subsequent letter.
Mr Thomas issued proceedings, alleging unfair dismissal and age discrimination, however the Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was fair. Mr Thomas appealed the decision to the EAT.
Quashing the decision, the EAT ordered that the case was heard at a fresh employment tribunal. The EAT criticised BNP’s decision to place Mr Thomas on garden leave and prohibit contact with colleagues during the consultation period. It was noted that the EAT found it troubling that the employment tribunal had found the dismissal to be fair despite considering the manner of consultation “perfunctory and insensitive”.
This case highlights that placing an employee on garden leave should be carefully considered in each case. Placing an employee on garden leave too early or without proper consideration could lead to allegation of unfairness or predetermination. Furthermore, the consultation process should be handled sensitively and not as a box ticking approach. Writing to an employee with over 40 years’ service and getting his name wrong, is unlikely to be well received by an Employment Tribunal.