Redundancy bumping: what is it and how does it work?

Many employers are facing difficult redundancy decisions and when doing so they must meet specific requirements to ensure the fair and lawful dismissal of employees. This includes having a genuine reason for any redundancy and following the correct redundancy procedure.

As part of a fair redundancy process, an employer should generally consider if they can offer an ‘at risk’ employee suitable alternative employment. This includes any vacant roles and can extend to considering roles that are not vacant. Where the alternative role is not vacant, but rather already filled by another member of staff, this is called ‘redundancy bumping’.

A bumped redundancy occurs when an employee (whose role is not at risk of redundancy) is dismissed as redundant and the resulting vacancy created by their dismissal is filled by the employee whose role was originally redundant.

Redundancy bumping, despite the potential injustice to the employee who is ultimately dismissed, is lawful, provided the correct procedure is followed in respect of the bumped employee’s dismissal.

The process of bumping can appear to be an unjust process, especially since it results in the dismissal of someone whose job role was not actually redundant. However, in legal terms, this can constitute fair grounds for redundancy. In cases where an employer fails to consider bumping of employees, this may actually constitute unfair dismissal.

The principle set by case law around bumping is that there is no strict requirement on an employer to consider bumping its employees in every redundancy case, nor is the employer under an obligation to dismiss another employee to preserve the employment of another member of staff. But if during consultation, the “at risk” employee looks at another role in the business and wishes to be considered for it, the employer must have a very strong reason for failing to do this. As always, the fairness of the dismissal will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and bumping is only one factor determining fairness.

It is also important to remember that it may not be sufficient to simply consider the possibility of redundancy bumping. To avoid a finding of unfair dismissal, you must also consult with the employee to explore whether they would be willing to consider a more junior role at a reduced salary.

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