Redundancy during Covid-19: help for employees. Alex Monaco on BBC Radio London
Here is the transcript of an interview by BBC Radio London host Vanessa Feltz with our Alex Monaco, about redundancies in the pandemic and Monaco Solicitors’ Redundancy Letter Builder. Broadcast on 7/10/2020 at 0823 hours. (Click on start button above to hear the broadcast.)
Vanessa: The BBC has learned that in the first five months of the Covid crisis, almost 500,000 people were made redundant by British employers. This is an email from Sarah in Locksbottom, she says:
“Vanessa, my 33-year-old niece moved in with us in July. She’s been made redundant and split from her boyfriend. She had nowhere else to go. She’s applied for upwards of 400 jobs.
Of the 400 applications, she’s had two interviews – for much less of a job than she’s used to. One interview she wasn’t lucky, the other, she heard nothing back.
One job yesterday had 890 applicants. She’s a fairly high earner but has been applying for absolutely anything. It is dire out there. We’re loving having her but obviously it is not what we all wanted.”
Now the new figures show almost 1,000 employers told the government of plans to cut 20 or more jobs. Joining me on the programme is Alex Monaco, employment lawyer and founder of Monaco Solicitors. Alex, good morning.
Alex: Thank you Vanessa, good morning, how are you doing?
Vanessa: I’m alright, thank you. I’m going to ask you what you make of those figures but I can’t imagine that you make anything but utter doom from them.
Alex: Well it does paint a horrifying picture, frankly: the huge numbers of people actually finding themselves being made redundant these days.
Vanessa: You’re an employment lawyer, I don’t know what you’re advising these people, or whether they are approaching lawyers to ask for help or advice under these very trying, difficult, worrying circumstances?
Alex: Well indeed, obviously with these redundancies employers have a duty to make sure that there’s a meaningful consultation.
[For redundancies] there’s got to be a reduction in the work, and they have to compare you with other people who they could make redundant instead of you.
They have to think about offering you alternative employment, and if more than 20 of you are being made redundant within 90 days, there needs to be a collective consultation which would last more than 30 days.
Now, for 8 out of 10 listeners out there, unfortunately there’s nothing that you’re going to be able to do, because there is a reduction in work, the economy seems to be in freefall, and most of these redundancies are legitimate under the law.
But if you’re one of those 2 out of 10 where it is unlawful, then you do need to do something about it.
Some unscrupulous employers unfortunately are treating this as a sort of carte blanche to get rid of people that frankly they don’t like.
And we’re seeing people, for example, who have complained about coronavirus health and safety at work, and have asked to work at home, who are sometimes being got rid of.
If that’s you, you do have rights under Section 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
And there are other more sinister reasons: getting rid of older people, or even disabled people or pregnant women, and then there are things like race and sex discrimination which are still around, unfortunately.
Now, employment tribunals cases are up about 20%, so there’s a huge number of those on the increase. We’re not advising people to go to an employment tribunal if you’ve been unlawfully treated. Not in the first instance.
You’ve got three months to start that process. So use those three months carefully.
Try to negotiate yourself an increased package. Perhaps you’re just getting the statutory redundancy package, which is the bare minimum. Try and get a bit of a sweetener from your employer, perhaps 1, 2, 3 months’ more money, just to keep you going.
And if you’ve been really badly treated, perhaps even up to 6 months more, because you need something to tide you over until you get another job, right?
Well, [you might say] why would your employer listen to you, that’s the thing?
Vanessa: That’s what I was about to say! You say: “see if you can get some extra money, see if you can get it as a sweetener, see if you can get it to help tide you over”. Yes, yes, yes, tick, tick, tick!
But how do you persuade them that’s the right thing for them to do, and how do you persuade them to actually do it?
Alex: Well that’s right, and a lot of employers frankly don’t have that much money at the moment. Even if they have been treating people badly, the last thing they want to do is put their hand in their pocket and pay out extra.
So you’ve got to make them understand that you’re serious and that you might go to an employment tribunal, and the way to do that is to set out your case in a legal letter.
You want a really detailed legal letter setting out your rights and what happened to you. If your employer reads that – it’s like the carrot and the stick – for the carrot, you’re saying, “well I’m going to go quietly, I won’t sue you”, and the stick is that they think you might go to employment tribunal because you’ve written a legal letter.
They think you might have a lawyer, and [going to an employment tribunal is] what they don’t want. No one wants that frankly; it’s stressful, it’s a long process. So you need to figure out what your legal rights are and encapsulate them into a legal letter.
Now, obviously most people don’t know how to do that, but help is at hand. We have made this free letter-writing tool on our website which is monacosolicitors.co.uk. (It’s Monaco like the place, just because my name’s Alex Monaco, it’s not for foreign law!)
And you can find that on our home page and build yourself a letter. It will look as though you’ve got lawyers. And unscrupulous employers fear that – they fear being caught out, and being brought to justice.
Vanessa: I’m not putting words into your mouth, and wouldn’t dream of it, but are you saying, “be a little more robust, be a bit more combative, be a bit more pre-emptive, than you might otherwise be”?
Because – using the analogy of the cake – really it’s a small cake and the slices that are available to be divvied up are getting smaller and smaller. So you might need to come in (as my other half would say), arms out, and a bit more vigorously than you otherwise would.
Alex: Well, we are discouraged often by the traditional media to go down this route. It’s called ‘a compensation culture’, and having rights is almost like a dirty word.
But lo and behold, traditional media is owned by big business: it’s not in their interests to promote that kind of activity.
Standing up for your rights is not a dirty word. You also need to take a practical approach, don’t you, nowadays? When are you going to get another job?
So normally you might let something like this go, and chalk it up to experience, and think, “well, I won’t work for people like that again”. But nowadays, financially, you may not have a choice. So you need to look at your rights.
Your rights are fairly complicated, but if you have actually found that your rights have been breached, then yes, stand up for them, that’s what they’re there for, they’re there for everyone equally.
We’re all equal in front of the law. So if that is you, then don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and do something about it.
Vanessa: Thank you very much indeed. They’re bracing words from Alex Monaco. And Alex, if you’re still there, just give us the website again so people can maybe have a look at the letter which you very kindly provide free of charge.
Really that’s a terrifically important gesture, thank you. What do people do if they want to see it?
Alex: Yes, they just go on to www.monacosolicitors.co.uk and it’s right there, on the homepage.
Vanessa: Well thank you very much indeed. I wonder whether you would be interested in reviewing the papers for us one day, we’d love to have you aboard. Would you?
Alex: Absolutely Vanessa, there’s nothing I’d love more. Thank you for the invite.
Vanessa: What a delightful response, thank you very much indeed! Thank you. Alex Monaco, employment lawyer, founder of Monaco Solicitors.
Vanessa concludes the piece by reminding her listeners that “there is a letter that they have drafted to help you out if you think you’re going to be made redundant or you have been made redundant, and you want to see whether you can just negotiate a little bit more money, a package to help you to survive the months with no work. You might want to have a look at that.”
Your next steps
If you have recently been made redundant, or are facing the prospect of redundancy, you might like to find out more about the subject by reading some of our related guides – listed below – as well as trying the redundancy letter-writing tool discussed in this broadcast.
If you need further help, then do get in touch with Monaco Solicitors. Our legal team are all senior solicitors who are highly experienced at winning cases in this field. They are also friendly and approachable because they work only with employees (not employers), so understand where you are coming from.