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These FAQs set out the common questions and pitfalls faced by employers when dealing with collective redundancy consultation.

Collective consultation is a complex area of law which places a number of strict obligations upon the employer, particularly around the beginning of the process. The penalties for not complying fully with collective consultation obligations are severe and we would encourage employers to seek legal guidance at the outset of a collective redundancy process as errors at this stage may be impossible to rectify. We have put together a toolkit of documents in order to assist you with this process, which is available for purchase. A full index of the documents available can be found below. For further information on the toolkit please get in touch

When is collective consultation required?

Collective consultation obligations apply where an employer is proposing to dismiss 20 or more employees as redundant at any one establishment within a 90-day period.

For Schools that are, for example, part of a wider multi-academy trust, the question as to whether collective consultation obligations apply can often turn on whether the proposal is at “one establishment.”

It is also important to note that the definition of a redundancy dismissal for these purposes is wider than the test of whether the employee would qualify for a statutory redundancy payment. For example, it includes the following circumstances:

  • Voluntary redundancies
  • Employees whose current role the School is proposing to make redundant but expects to offer suitable alternative employment
  • Employees whom the School is proposing to ‘dismiss and re-engage’ in order to achieve changes to their contract of employment.

Schools are well advised to check their Redundancy / Managing Change Policies which have usually been negotiated with recognised trade unions at the outset of a redundancy or restructure process.  This is because it is often the case that, even where such policies and procedures are non-contractual and the proposal is to dismiss fewer than 20 or more employees as redundant, the School has committed to consult (albeit outside of the collective consultation regime) with trade unions about potential redundancies or restructures.

In these circumstances best practise, with a view to maintaining strong union relations, is to follow the steps set out below.  However correspondence to recognised trade unions should make it clear that it is the School’s understanding that the requirement to collectively consult with recognised trade unions does not arise because there are less than 20 staff potentially affected by the proposal.

Who do I have to collectively consult with?

Schools invariably recognise trade unions for the purposes of collective consultation and, therefore, must consult with those trade unions about the proposed redundancy dismissals.

In rare situations, where there is a standard body of representatives in respect of the workforce (such as a Works Council), the School should consult with them in the absence of a recognised trade union – but only if that body has authority to consult on behalf of the workforce about collective redundancies. Not all representative bodies can be said to have authority to consult on behalf of the workforce in these circumstances.


Where there is no trade union or appropriate standing body of representatives, the School must arrange to hold elections for employee representatives. Similarly where there is a trade union or standing body which only represents a part of the workforce which is affected, the School will need to arrange employee representative elections to cover the remaining workforce.

What does collective consultation involve?

There are two key aspects to collective consultation: providing information to the appropriate representatives, and consulting about the proposed redundancies.

There is a prescribed list of information which is required to be given to the representatives at the very outset of the process. This requires Schools to give extensive details of the proposals, the roles involved and the process which they intend to follow. This is generally given in a ‘section 188’ letter which should be sent to the head office of all recognised trade unions whose members are affected by the proposal.  Representatives will often request further information during the consultation process, and Schools will generally be expected to provide this to enable meaningful consultation to take place unless there is a very good reason for not providing it.

The consultation aspect generally takes the form of several meetings between the School and the trade union representatives, who must also be given an opportunity to pass information to the individuals they represent. The consultation should cover a broad range of issues, such as whether the redundancies can be avoided or reduced in number, the applicable selection criteria to be used and the make-up of the applicable pools.

Collective consultation does not replace the need for individual consultation. Once the consultation process with the representatives has come to an end the School then needs to conduct individual consultation meetings with those individuals at risk prior to issuing notice of redundancy.

So I need to collectively consult for at least 30 days?

No – this is a common misconception.

The law says that no redundancy dismissals can take effect within 30 days of the beginning of collective consultation (rising to 45 days where there are 100+ proposed redundancies). It is possible to conclude collective consultation, and individual consultation, provided that no notices of dismissal expire during this time.

However, Schools should also guard against being seen to rush through the process and avoid an argument that they have not properly consulted and/or that some or all of the redundancy dismissals are unfair.

What are the risks of getting collective consultation wrong?

The main risk is that Schools will be ordered to pay a ‘protective award’ if they are found not to have complied with their collective consultation obligations by an Employment Tribunal. Tribunals can make a ‘protective award’ of 90 days’ pay in respect of each employee, and this is not subject to the cap on a ‘week’s pay’ as other areas of employment law.

Furthermore, a failure to properly collectively consult may also give rise to a claim that one or more of the redundancy dismissals were not fair, and redundant employees may bring unfair dismissal claims on that basis.

Schools are also required to file a HR1 form at the outset of the process with the Government, providing certain details of the proposed redundancies. Failure to do so can actually constitute a criminal offence!

What are the most common mistakes Schools make in a collective redundancy process?

Redundancies being a foregone conclusion before consultation has started

The basic principle of consultation is that it is approached with an open-mind and without any final decisions made regarding the redundancies. If trade unions can show that the School had already decided to proceed with the redundancies before consultation, this will almost certainly render any subsequent consultation process a sham. The duty to consult in a collective consultation situation generally arises much earlier than in a “standard” redundancy- the obligation arises at the point of the “proposal” to dismiss.

Getting employee elections wrong

Whilst Schools will almost always inform and consult with recognised trade unions (and therefore not need to go through the process of electing appropriate representatives), most UK employers outside of the education sector, are not familiar with arranging representative elections, and many are therefore not sure where to start. Employers have some discretion over employee representative elections (such as how many representatives are required), but there are a number of strict rules and overriding principles which they must follow.

Not providing the trade unions with the required information

Some of the information required to be provided by section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 is basic, such as the total number of the proposed redundancies and the specific roles which are at risk.

However, not all of the information is obvious by any stretch – for example, Schools must provide details of their use of agency workers anywhere in the business. Although this may seem unimportant, a failure to provide this information is technically a breach of collective consultation obligations.

Not consulting with individuals about their redundancies

Collective consultation creates an extra layer of protection for employees; it does not remove their existing protection against unfair dismissal. Schools must still therefore consult with individual employees who remain at risk of redundancy following collective consultation, or risk unfair dismissal claims on the basis that they have not followed a fair procedure.

What documents are available to help me with collective redundancies?

We have put together a toolkit of documents in order to assist you with this process, which are available for purchase and include:

  • How to Guide: Collective redundancies
  • Guidance note on collective consultation
  • Collective consultation step plan
  • HR1 form
  • Letter/email to workforce announcing proposed redundancies
  • Guide on conducting an election
  • Invitation to nominate employee representative(s)
  • Notice of ballot for employee representatives
  • Confirmation of elected representatives
  • Guide for Rights and Responsibilities for Employee Representatives
  • S188 letter
  • Request for volunteers for redundancy
  • Selection assessment form and guidance
  • Letter/email confirming provisional selection – in a pool
  • Letter/email confirming provisional selection – no pool
  • Follow up to individual consultation
  • Letter/email offering alternative employment
  • Letter/email accepting voluntary redundancy
  • Letter/email confirming dismissal
  • Letter/email inviting to an appeal meeting
  • Letter/email confirming appeal outcome

For further information on the toolkit please contact us

Our toolkit of documents to assist you with collective redundancies is available to purchase. A list of all the document can be found in the last FAQ. If you wish to purchase the toolkit or have any questions, please get in touch.

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