Redundancy is a potentially fair reason for dismissal, but may be found to be unfair – for example if a particular employee is unfairly selected for redundancy. Where the decision to make someone redundant follows the reasonable application of a fair process, it will not be open to question, however.
In Halpin v Sandpiper Books Ltd., the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that the Employment Tribunal (ET) had been correct to find that the pool for selection for redundancy could consist of only one person where he was the only person doing that job.
Mr Halpin began working for Sandpiper Books Ltd. in 2007 as an administrator/analyst at its London office. In 2008, the company decided to look into the prospect of selling books in the Chinese market and Mr Halpin, who had spent a year in China teaching English, was given the job of developing sales in that country. However, Sandpiper Books subsequently decided that it would be preferable to outsource this work to a local agency and Mr Halpin’s role was at risk of redundancy.
For redundancy selection purposes, Mr Halpin was treated as being in a pool of one. Sandpiper Books consulted with him extensively and offered him alternative employment, but this was refused and he was made redundant.
Mr Halpin brought a claim for unfair dismissal but the ET was satisfied that there was a genuine redundancy situation and that he had been fairly selected for redundancy ‘in so far as he was in a pool of one given his unique position dealing solely with sales and based in China’.
Mr Halpin appealed on the basis that no reasonable employer would automatically limit the selection pool for redundancy to those whose work had itself diminished but would include other workers with interchangeable skills.
The EAT dismissed the appeal. An ET is in error if it makes itself ‘the decision-maker as to pools’. The finding of the ET in this case as regards the employer’s decision to have a pool of one was not only open to the ET but was also a decision that it could not easily overturn. The decision was logical. Mr Halpin was on his own working in China and this work had come to an end. The ET had found no fault with the procedure adopted by the management of the company, so it would not have been correct for it to interfere with any of the decisions that caused Mr Halpin’s redundancy.
When contemplating making job cuts, employers should always give careful consideration to the composition of the pool of those at risk of redundancy but, as this case shows, there are circumstances where the redundant post is in fact unique and the pool will consist of the job holder alone.