Exploring the what and why of #FairRedundancy

Written by Hannah Strawbridge, CEO and Founder, Han Law

On 29 October 2020, we launched #FairRedundancy – a campaign which we believe will make redundancy programmes across the UK fairer.

We are asking employers to agree to publish their redundancy statistics when they release their gender pay reporting if appropriate, or in Spring 2021 if they don’t legally have to provide gender pay reports.

We are confident that this transparency in itself will produce a better result for certain groups of employees.

Why do we need #FairRedundancy?

The disturbing truth is that Covid-19 has, and continues to, disproportionately affect women and individuals from minority groups.

As a result of the pandemic, the economic reality is that businesses have already and will continue to need to make redundancies over the coming months in order to protect the business and allow it to survive. However, the challenge is balancing this with preserving individuals’ rights.

This isn’t simply about equality in the workplace. It is also about ensuring that the economy as a whole doesn’t suffer in the future. If more women than men are being made redundant, this is likely to mean that there will be fewer female leaders in business in the future. And fewer diverse boards affect the quality of decisions which directly impacts productivity and profitability.

The research and evidence demonstrate that the impact of a diverse workforce and a diversity at board level is significant.

What can I do about #FairRedundancy as an employer?

Firstly, run a fair redundancy consultation process. Your employees are more likely to respect a business decision when the process has been carried out fairly, and with empathy. Also, in order to avoid a claim for unfair dismissal, it is vital that not only is there a genuine redundancy situation, but that the process is carried out fairly and reasonably.

Second, take the pledge to be transparent about your results. This means clarifying groups of individuals who have been made redundant and if there appears to be disproportionality then explaining why - in a similar way to gender pay gap reporting. For instance, are more women than men losing their jobs? Why is this?

Why is this so important?

Diversity isn’t just about banging a drum for certain groups.Having a diverse workforce at all levels within a business benefits the organisation economically, benefits society and positivity impacts the broader global economic pictures.

“We’re a small business just trying to survive right now. It’s hard enough following employment law let alone making this commitment. How is the pledge relevant to us?”

As advisers to both individuals and businesses in respect of employment law and HR, we are well aware that this is a tough time. Small businesses, in particular, are under pressure to make decisions about their future and are focused on navigating a way to survive and continue to grow through these times.

Nevertheless, the #FairRedundancy campaign is vital, no matter the size of business, because the research is clear – diversity in business brings greater revenues and profitability. Hence, fairer redundancy programmes brings a win - for everyone. More than that, we believe if we are to avoid reverting back to the 1950’s then action is required now, not when we are ‘back to normal’ – if that is even going to be reality.

“How do we report our #FairRedundancy if we don’t have the data?”

Right now, our focus is on businesses making the pledge itself. A declaration of commitment to being fair now, more than ever, says so much. This brings positivity and an honesty which is more important than ever in these times.

We believe that the reporting will evolve over time as gender pay reporting has. For reporting this year, we suggest businesses gather the data they have, report what you have, explain any gaps and record the data for next year. Then go again.

“We aren’t planning on making redundancies – can we still get involved?”

This is good news, however we would still love any support businesses would be willing to pledge because we believe the message is just as important as the practical results. We won’t name firms who pledge unless they would like us to.

“OK, we would like to sign up – what are the next steps?”

Sign up on our website and if you would like us to publish your involvement then we would be happy to share on our social media channels.

“Who has taken the pledge?”

We are excited to have pledges from a number of businesses including the national law firm Shakespeare Martineau. Sarah Walker-Smith, Chief Executive, has said ‘There are a lot of economic benefits to retaining a diverse workforce and it is something that we are committed to as a business. I’d love to see the whole legal industry come together on this issue.’

What next?

It’s so important that awareness continues to be raised about the negative impact of Covid-19 on certain groups in society in the workplace, and what this will mean for the future.

This doesn’t just mean looking at who will be made redundant as a result of Covid-19, although this is our key focus. It also means digging deeper to look at why women are more likely than men to decide to quit their jobs due to Covid-19. This could be as a result of lockdown, the pressures of juggling work with home-schooling, child-care, and running a home.

Han Law’s purpose as a business is driven by wanting to inspire positive change and improve working lives. For this reason, talking and raising awareness alone won’t cut the mustard but it is a start.

The government, businesses and individuals all have roles to play in creating solutions to the problem now. Positive change has never been so important.

Employers can sign the pledge here.

Hannah Strawbridge is founder of Han Law - a provider of modern, client-centric, employment law solutions.