TALLULAH ALLEN | LEGAL JARGON WRITER
With the government’s furlough scheme set to end in October, it has been revealed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that one in three businesses are planning to make redundancies coinciding with the withdrawal of government support for workers. This figure has risen since April, when it was reported that a quarter of employers were expected to let staff go.
The private sector is predicted to be disproportionately affected, and despite hiring confidence growing in recent weeks, the data suggests that the job market will become saturated with those left without work, alongside recent graduates.
Law firms are by no means exempt; throughout the last few months, major names such as Norton Rose Fulbright, Irwin Mitchell and DWF have all detailed plans to cut jobs in October. Indeed, some companies have decided not to wait for the end of the furlough scheme and there have been several announcements of proposed redundancies within some of the UK’s biggest firms. One of the more controversial cases has been that of British Airways, who are engaging in ongoing negotiations with Unite to ensure a fair deal for ex-employees.
Workers’ rights have been thrust into the spotlight, and it is more important than ever that those that are facing redundancy do not suffer at the hands of these large corporations.
What is the effect of a proposed increase in redundancies from a legal perspective?
It appears that law firms are primarily targeting business support roles, and an expected increase in mergers in the near future will result in many more losing their jobs as companies prepare for financial recovery.
Where firms are choosing to retain employees, there have been several notable cuts to NQ salaries by a range of Top 100 firms, namely Linklaters, Macfarlanes, Clyde & Co and most recently NRF. Individual arrangements are being made by every business to mitigate financial damage and promote regrowth, often leaving the rights of workers hanging in the balance.
Above all, BBC News highlights the importance of understanding the terms of redundancy, insisting that the process differs from dismissal, as employees benefit from legal protection in the case of the former. For example, there must be fair justification for selection (an employee cannot be discriminated against on account of their age, gender, familial status or affiliations with trade unions or whistleblowing movements) and must receive adequate notice and pay depending on how long they have worked for the company. Alternatively, a vast number of employees have redundancy rights written into their contracts, which are usually more generous than the legal minimum and to which companies must adhere.
There is little doubt that the focus will turn to how firms are reacting in the face of and, where possible, preventing job cuts and law firms may be expected to pave the way in terms of innovative solutions and respecting their employees’ legal entitlements, both past and current.
Tallulah is currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Cambridge and hopes to train as a solicitor after graduating.
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