Redundancy Bumping Exposed

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 21st November 2023

If you haven’t heard of redundancy bumping, it is something you should educate yourself on if you become aware that there is a round of redundancies happening at your workplace, or you’re an employer considering a redundancy process.

redundancy-bumping-exposed

This guide will cover what redundancy bumping is, what happens when it occurs and what you can do about it if your employer ‘bumps’ you or one of your colleagues. 

In this article, we cover:

  • How bumping works

  • Some examples of bumping in practice

  • Whether redundancy bumping is legal

  • When bumping is necessary

  • Key takeaways for employers and employees

What is bumping in redundancy?

Bumping in redundancy is when one employee at risk of redundancy is moved to another role, and the employee whose role they take over gets made redundant instead.

It is important to note that redundancy bumping is legal, so as an employee, you need to know your rights when it comes to employment law.

How does bumping in redundancy work?

Redundancy bumping refers to a situation where an employee at risk of redundancy is moved to another role, and as a result, another employee who was not originally at risk of redundancy may be dismissed instead.

This is typically done to retain a valuable employee by moving them into a role that is being eliminated or to avoid redundancy for a skilled and experienced worker.

The process of redundancy bumping involves identifying a suitable alternative role for the employee at risk of redundancy within the organisation. The employee in the alternative role, who was not initially at risk, may then be selected for redundancy instead of the original employee. This is often based on criteria such as skills, qualifications, and abilities.

Let's look at an example - Imagine employee A is at risk of redundancy as the roles in their department are being assessed, but they are moved into a role being carried out by employee B, and now employee B is made redundant instead of employee A. This would be considered redundancy bumping.

Yes, bumping an employee as part of a redundancy process is legal, if not common. Clear and fair redundancy procedures as per employment law still have to be followed if bumping is to be considered justified.

If your business is in the process of considering redundancies, in some cases weighing up the practice of bumping is judged as part of a fair process. However, an employer is never duty bound to bump an employee.

Employers are generally required to follow a fair and transparent redundancy process. This includes consulting with affected employees, considering alternatives to redundancy, and providing a right to appeal. The specific procedures can vary, and employers may have their own policies in place.

Redundancy bumping examples

Now you might be wondering, why on earth would a company move an employee under threat of redundancy to another employee’s position? You may imagine that doing this could cause bad feeling from employees affected, and the rest of the workforce if word got out, or if it was a widespread strategy employed by a business.

Let's have a look at this recent real-world example of redundancy bumping:

Dr H Mirab v Mentor Graphics (UK) Ltd

This case was bought to a tribunal in 2018 which found in favour of the employer against the claimant.

Dr Mirab, who claimed unfair dismissal, was the sales director of the UK branch of Mentor Graphics (UK) Ltd. At the time of his employment, he was the only Sales Director in the UK branch of the business. He was responsible for managing a number of account managers.

When the business was restructured, Mirab was stripped of some of his responsibilities and had a number of his direct reports reallocated to new managers. Later, Mentor Graphics reassessed the need for a UK sales director and put his role under question; he also asked if he would be considered for an account manager role. 

He had previously stated he wasn’t keen on being reduced to an account manager role. Next, his employers said there was no opportunity to create a new role and all the current account manager roles were all filled. Mirab was then made redundant after three consultations in which he was given a list of potential roles he could move into. 

The tribunal originally concluded that his employer had done enough, but that they might have suggested bumping an account manager for Mirab. They also noted that Mirab didn’t suggest this when asked about ways he might continue to be employed and stated that he’d previously expressed a desire not to be an account manager. 

Mirab appealed, taking the case to an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) where they reversed the decision. The EAT upheld two grounds for appeal. It stated that the tribunal had incorrectly interpreted existing case law regarding a rule where an employer only has to consider bumping if the employee suggests it.

The EAT also found, despite evidence to the contrary from the tribunal, that it appeared that Mirab did in fact indicate he might be open to an account manager role.

What do the findings mean for employers?

There is no set in stone rule that employers must consider bumping in cases of redundancy, or face unfair dismissal claims. Employers are perfectly at liberty to not consider bumping, and the employee asking them to consider bumping a junior employee doesn’t mean they have a duty to do so.

When is bumping in redundancy necessary?

As mentioned, there are times when employee bumping is part of a fair redundancy process and at others, even necessary.

To reiterate, whether bumping should have been considered is often the realm of a tribunal and should be considered on a case by case-by-case basis by employers, and not written down in policy. 

Following this process can help employers decide whether they should bump: 

  • Is there a vacancy which suits the employees’ skills and experience?

  • Is the employees’ current job similar enough to the open role?

  • Is there too large a salary gap between the roles?

  • How do employee A and employee B’s length of employment compare?

  • What are the qualifications of the employee being considered for redundancy?

Also, consider that bumping should never be used as a smokescreen for letting go an employee without following the correct procedures. Bumping should be part of a fair process and not be used as an instrument to dismiss colleagues without reason. 

Remember, that an employee tribunal will be extremely thorough when looking at the information of any case bought to them. 

An employment tribunal will look at the reasons for constructive dismissal in great detail. They will be especially forensic in trying to determine whether a redundancy process has been started with the intention of getting rid of staff rather than going through the necessary channels, whether an employee is being let go for competency or disciplinary reasons.

An employees’ work and disciplinary record can, however, be considered as a metric in a fair bumping process when weighing up the final decision of to bump or not to bump.

Redundancy processes are hugely tricky for employers to get right. One potential method for reducing unfair dismissal is to consider more roles for a set number of redundancies. An employer might widen the redundancy field by looking vertically (bumping), rather than just horizontally where an employee is made redundant because they share responsibilities with another team member.

The issue here is one mentioned earlier: if a wider redundancy pool effects more people, there could be a much larger impact on morale. 

Employers need to consider the greater risk, reduced morale or a higher risk of unfair dismissal claims.

Key takeaways 

  1. Bumping as part of a redundancy process should be considered on a case-by-case basis

  2. When higher skilled employees aren’t considered a candidate for bumping to a low skill role, these cases are more likely to bring up issues of fairness

  3. Whether bumping is necessary depends on the unique details of the case

  4. Employers must weigh up bumping an employee under threat of losing their job in a redundancy process, if they ask for it, however they have no duty to bump any employees

  5. If you have considered bumping as part of a process and ultimately decided against it, write down your thoughts - you might need them in the scenario of an employee filing for unfair dismissal 

  6. Considering bumping as part of every redundancy process will reduce the risk of unfair dismissal

  7. Don’t only consider bumping, you must discuss it with the employee

Get help with redundancy from our employment solicitors

If you’re looking for help from a solicitor on employment matters, from making a tribunal claim to reaching a redundancy settlement, tell us about your case to get a free assessment from our legal assessment team. Our lawyers and solicitors are on hand to help you get fast, affordable advice online for fixed fees.

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