Redundancies during COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses – and with it, we’ve seen sweeping redundancies across the country.

Explore what’s happening in the jobs market, and what you can do if you’ve been affected?

What’s the current situation in the UK?

Even with the government’s Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme – known to everyone outside of Whitehall as ‘furlough’ – redundancies are on the up.

The latest figures from the ONS cover October to December 2020 – that’s the time when the UK saw the introduction of the tier system, as well as the second national lockdown. And in that time, redundancies massively increased.

It’s now estimated that out of every 1,000 employees, 12.3 have lost their jobs. The last time it was anywhere near that high was in February-April 2009, during the recession.

Hospitality and retail have witnessed the worst of job losses, so it’s no surprise that 18- to 25-year-olds, who tend to be employed in those industries, have taken the worst hit; 287,000 dropped off the employee payroll.

The UK unemployment rate as a whole rests at 5.1% (or about 1.74 million people). But the Bank of England reckons that by June we’ll hit a peak of 7.75%. In other words, it could get worse before it gets better.
The real test for the country will come when shops, offices, and other businesses open up, and the furlough scheme ends.

When can an employer make you redundant?

The company you work for can make you redundant when:
  • The business has gone bust
  • Your position no longer exists or is ‘unnecessary’
  • The company is reorganised, relocated, or must make staff reductions

Your employer also needs to prove there was a genuine reason for dismissing you and you were fairly selected for redundancy.

Any employee can be made redundant (even those on furlough). But unless you’re an employee who’s been with the business for two or more years, you won’t be entitled to statutory redundancy pay. That’s not to say the business won’t give you anything, they’re just not legally obliged to pay it.

If you meet the requirements, according to the government, you’ll get:
  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older

If you’re on furlough, you’ll be paid according to your contracted salary or wage – not the 80% salary you’re currently on.

Remember, even if you lose your job because of COVID-19, your employment rights aren’t affected.

Who should you talk to after being made redundant?

If you’ve been made redundant, or you’re facing the redundancy process, don’t panic. There are organisations out there who can help.

Citizens Advice is an excellent place to start. This independent service offers help and advice, and has partnered with loads of charities who can also assist you after losing your job.

On the look-out for another job? Get in touch with the Rapid Response Service at the Jobcentre – you can email them at [email protected]. It’s a service designed to get you back to work, with help writing up a new CV, finding jobs and training, getting help with expenses, and lots more.

You can use the Rapid Response Service when you’re facing redundancy, or up to 13 weeks after losing your job.

You might also want to make a redundancy claim if you think the coronavirus is being used as a cover to get rid of you.

You don’t need a lawyer to do this, but it might be worth asking for their advice. They’ll let you know the requirements and process, so you get it right first time.

When should you make a redundancy claim?

During the coronavirus pandemic, job losses are sadly inevitable. Some businesses haven’t been able to trade for almost a year, and the way we work has changed, at least temporarily.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider making a redundancy claim if you believe:
  • You were unfairly selected for redundancy

There are lots of different ways for a company to select who’s made redundant, from ‘last in, first out’ to deciding based on workplace conduct. There’s no set method for deciding, although what your employer can’t do is choose you because of a protected characteristic or just because a manager doesn’t like you. That’s completely illegal.
  • The redundancy process was poor, flawed, or non-existent

Every business will have its own redundancy process. As part of that, you should be invited to meetings, consultations, and offered a similar job at the company if there is one. If you think it’s been mishandled – for instance, you weren’t given any notice about your redundancy – then you could make a claim. If there’s no process at all, speak to an employment solicitor as soon as you can.
  • Your redundancy isn’t genuine

Your employer needs to be able to prove there’s a real reason for making you redundant. COVID-19 has seen plenty of businesses go under or bought out, which are ‘fair’ reasons for job losses. If the business you work for is still hiring for roles like yours, then it’s likely the redundancy isn’t genuine; it’s being used as an excuse to dismiss you.

Remember, you must make a claim within three months (minus one day) of being made redundant.
With The Law Superstore, you can discover ways to resolve employment disputes, and compare and connect with legal experts for the advice you need to get you back on your feet.


Steve Clark

Steve creates helpful guides for The Law Superstore. He enjoys digging deep into new areas of the law, supporting partners, and translating legalese and jargon into plain English everyone can understand.