A Yorkshire-based employment lawyer is calling on the UK’s major employers to be more open and transparent on their redundancy plans for 2020-21 and beyond.
Hannah Strawbridge, founder of Halifax-based Han Law, an employment law and HR specialist, wants big companies to sign up to the Fair Redundancy Pledge.
Government figures showed that in the first five months of the Covid-19 pandemic 498,000 people were made redundant in the UK.
In August, 966 employers told the Government they planned to axe 20 or more jobs, compared with 214 employers in August 2019.
Early last month the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of payroll employees in the UK had fallen by 673,000 since March. That figure was likely to increase as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme wound down towards at the end of October and furlough turned to redundancy for many.
Hannah said she feared women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, those with disabilities and older workers had been disproportionately affected by Covid-related redundancy.
“The pledge is simple,” she said. “We’re asking employers to declare the splits of their redundancy programmes by age, race, disability and gender.
“Our gut instinct is that women, individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds, the disabled and people of certain ages are going to be disproportionately affected.
“Our thinking is that firms which take the pledge are less likely to impose disproportionate redundancies.”
Hannah said the pandemic had widened workplace inequalities, damaging women’s rights in particular.
She added: “There’s been little or no support from Government for these affected groups so far and the postponement of gender pay reporting in 2020 has been lengthened, effectively, by Cabinet Office confirming to us that there will be no sanctions for those who fail to report on gender pay in Spring 2021.
“We’re worried that all the recent progress on equality will now be eradicated and that as a result of Covid, women’s rights in particular have been denigrated.
“This pledge is intended to bring equality front of mind for leaders and allow them to demonstrate that they have been fair in their judgements.
“The harsh reality is that a lot of people will lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months. The pledge won’t stop that.
“However, the burden of those redundancies needs to be shared equally across society. Conduct a fair redundancy process and publish your before and after figures so that you can demonstrate that you’ve been even handed.”