The Department for Education has been warned it could face hundreds of unfair dismissal claims if it pushes ahead with plans in England to axe about 1,000 jobs and cut its costs by 50%. This is from the BBC…
Lawyers acting for civil service union the PCS wrote to Michael Gove reminding him of his duty to follow agreed redundancy procedures.
The union says the department plans to decide job cuts on capability grounds.
The DfE says it wants to create a department that delivers excellence.
The warning came as civil servants at the DfE began a rolling programme of industrial action over the cuts announced in the Department for Education Review last November. A short walk-out is due to take place next Thursday.
It called for a 50% cut in the department’s operating costs between 2010 and 2015, a reduction in the number of offices it has around England from 12 to six and the likely loss of 1,000 jobs. But since then there has been little detail of where the job cuts will fall.
However, it is thought that the reductions will be spread fairly evenly across the DfE’s range of activities, but the union also fears that child protection will suffer as the department prioritises its free schools and academies programme.
The letter to the DfE’s most senior civil servant Chris Wormald says: “We understand from the PCS that the department denies that this amounts to a potential redundancy situation. We must confess to being totally mystified by that denial.
“A reduction in costs of 50%, a potential reduction in staff of 25% and the closure of six offices clearly gives rise to a potential redundancy situation. The department’s assertion to the contrary is, with respect, completely unsustainable.”
It stresses that the redundancy agreement , which is a collective agreement between the department and recognised trade unions, should therefore be applied.
Among other things, this requires the employer to give full notice of the proposals to those likely to be affected, to trade unions and to ensure that the rules are applied fairly.
The letter adds: “We note that instead of following the clear and agreed procedure, the department is intending to run a ‘selection process’ which will effectively determine who is to be dismissed, if they cannot be deployed.”
It continues: “As a result of the department’s failure to follow the redundancy procedure, it is leaving itself open to hundreds of unfair dismissal claims. If the reason for dismissal in such claims is found to be capability, the process adopted will clearly be unfair.
“If the reason for dismissal is found to be redundancy, then again the failure to follow the agreed procedures will render these dismissals unfair.”
It concludes that the “risk of the department facing hundreds of unfair dismissal claims” can be avoided if the procedures are properly followed.