By Dawn Robertson, Employment Lawyer with Rooney Nimmo and Scott Tees, online safety and security expert and Managing Director of Decode Cyber Solutions
Redundancy is tricky at the best of times, but during the COVID pandemic, the practicalities around making redundancies are all the more difficult. Here are five tips from Dawn and Scott for getting it right.
First things first, establish whether you have a genuine redundancy situation. The legal definition of redundancy is much narrower than how the term is typically used in society. From a legal perspective, redundancy encompasses three types of situations attributable to the employer:
- Business Closure – ceasing or intending to cease the continuation of the business for which the employee was employed
- Workplace Closure – ceasing or intending to cease to continue the business in the place where the employee was so employed
- Reduction of Workforce – having a reduced requirement for employees to carry out work of a particular kind or to do so at the place where the employee was employed to work
To be a genuine redundancy situation, you must demonstrate that the situation falls into one of the above three categories.
Remember It’s a Process
People frequently talk about the redundancy process, but we often hear about employers “making people redundant” without any process at all in practice. For an employee to be fairly dismissed by reason of redundancy, the employer must go through a process. The purpose of the process is to ensure that the potentially affected employees are consulted with ways to avoid redundancy and so that the right posts are identified for redundancy.
Employees are People Too
While redundancy is difficult for any business to contemplate, it is still likely to shock the employees affected by the process. Everyone has different financial and personal circumstances, and therefore the potential impact of any loss of employment cannot be underestimated. Think about whether you can engage a company offering career counselling or recruitment services to ease the transition into a new job.
Beware of the Insider Threat
People will react to changes in circumstances in different ways. If these changes are seen to be negative, a once-trusted employee could suddenly become a risk to your organisation, in other words, an insider threat. Therefore, without adding unnecessary stress to the situation, steps should be taken to prevent any potentially malicious behaviour by any affected employee(s) leading up to or after the redundancy process has been initiated. Remember, anyone who has insider knowledge and access to the organisation’s network, I.T., or sensitive data is a potential insider threat. Some indicators of insider threat behaviour include.
- Looking for and saving sensitive data, such as client lists and financial information.
- Requesting access to data that is not related to their role.
- Using unauthorised storage devices (USB sticks; removable hard drives).
- Regularly in the office during out-of-hours periods or when there is no other staff present.
- Acting in a disgruntled manner or speaking about the organisation unpleasantly.
Organisations should take steps to strike a balance between reducing the opportunity for such threats to be conducted and allowing the employee to continue fulfilling their role requirements without prejudice
These steps should include.
- Know what your sensitive data is, where it is located and who has access to it.
- Manage your permissions, ensuring the data access of all your employees is restricted to only the necessary information for their role.
- Monitor online activity, particularly attempts to access/extract sensitive data from staff that does not have permission to do so.
- Review your security policies, including the use of removable devices, unauthorised access, use, and extracting of data.
- Create a process that ensures that employee accounts and organisational networks are disabled and that devices and security passes are returned before leaving the organisation. Any data they have been in possession of is returned or destroyed. It is essential that this is not left to the final day of their employment, and certainly not after the date of redundancy.
One final thought: You must support your staff during this period, and one of the ways you can do this is to remove the opportunity for any of them to become a threat to your organisation.
Should you have any questions on anything covered in this article or employment matters generally, please get in touch with Dawn Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0)131 220 9579 or Scott Tess, managing director of Decode Cyber Solutions at email@example.com.
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