Draft Code of Practice on Redundancy Consultation and Procedures

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:45 pm on 14th October 2002.

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Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party 12:45 pm, 14th October 2002

I beg to move

That the Labour Relations Agency’s draft Code of Practice on Redundancy Consultation and Procedures be approved.

The draft code was laid before the Assembly on 24 September 2002, and it is subject to the Assembly’s approval. The draft code is issued under article 90 of the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, which, subject to departmental and Assembly approval, gives the Labour Relations Agency power to issue codes for the purpose of improving industrial relations.

The draft code is a revision of an existing code of practice on redundancy consultation and procedures that was issued in September 1998. The revisions take account of changes to the legislative provisions on consultation and collective redundancies as a consequence of the enactment of the Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999. The draft code will replace the old one. On approval by the Assembly, this draft code becomes the code, and the Department will make an Order bringing it into effect on an appointed day.

Members will agree that all organisations must adapt to economic and technological change in order to remain viable. Sometimes this may necessitate a change in their employment requirements with regard to the numbers and skills of the employees involved. In circumstances where redundancy becomes necessary, employers should recognise the damaging effects this may have on employees and should, therefore, handle redundancies with due care and consideration.

The aim of the code is to provide best practice guidance on redundancies — from early consultation about the likelihood of redundancies to the management of the process. It seeks to encourage all organisations to agree a framework within which a change in employment may be handled fairly, effectively and comprehensibly. The code seeks to ensure that employers are aware of their statutory obligations and employees of their entitlements under the relevant legislation. The code also gives guidance on the main features of a redundancy procedure.

In every organisation there should be clearly understood arrangements and principles, however simple, which are consistent with the underlying intentions set out in the draft code. The draft code provides summaries of what the current legislation requires by way of consultation by the employer with employees or their representatives when a redundancy situation is proposed, including such matters as the election of representatives, if necessary. It suggests ways of reducing or avoiding compulsory redundancies, sets out the principles of fair selection of those to be made redundant and outlines the rights of an employee when under notice of redundancy.

The impact assessments undertaken on the draft code conclude that it will not disadvantage any of the section 75 groups; it will place no additional costs on employers; and it will have a positive impact in the workplace. Although failure to observe any provision of the draft code does not of itself render anyone liable to proceedings, it may be admissible in evidence in any proceedings before an industrial tribunal or the industrial court if it is deemed to be relevant. I commend the draft code to the Assembly.