What is a suitable alternative role?

As the furlough scheme unwinds, there will inevitably be roles that will need to be made redundant. In fact KPMG estimate that the UK unemployment rate could peak at 11% in 2021. That’s an increase of 7% over March 2020 data. To put that in real terms, there are approximately 32.5 million people in the UK workforce which would mean an increase in unemployment of approximately 2.25 million people by next year.

Risk of redundancy

Whilst this number in itself is shocking, the fact is that many more people will be placed at risk of redundancy as their role is reshaped.

How to run a redundancy programme well

These restructures may create new roles in an organisation which those at risk of redundancy could be eligible for. Depending on the makeup of these roles, they could be classed as suitable alternative roles or alternative roles. So what’s the difference?

Suitable alternative roles

Put simply, a suitable alternative role is one where the new role is broadly similar to the existing role that the employee holds. This can be in both job content and terms and conditions. 

Suitable alternative employment

You could have a role that is very similar to an existing role but is either paid less or is required on a reduced basis (such as 3 days a week instead of full time). In this case the role could be suitable from a content perspective but not from the employees perspective.  

Why does it matter if it is a suitable alternative role?

Suitable alternative roles

Identifying a role as a suitable alternative role matters for a number of reasons:

  • Unreasonably refusing a suitable alternative role can mean an employee is no longer eligible for a statutory redundancy payment.
  • If you have employees who are pregnant, they should be offered suitable alternative roles before other employees. Employees need to have made their employer away before the ‘protected period’ commences.
  • Taking a suitable alternative role automatically attracts the right to a 4 week trial period. If the role is not regarded as suitable by either the employer or employee during this trial period, then they can leave and claim a redundancy payment.

Not just a paper exercise

As you can see, it really does matter whether a role is classed as a suitable alternative role or not. It is therefore critical that as part of your redundancy consultation process you need to map out your roles correctly to ensure you know what you have now and how it equates to the future organisation.

Need help with your redundancy process?

Nicci Birley, Rob Birley. Cornerstone Resources

We’ve been extremely busy in 2020 supporting customers with large and small redundancy processes. Whether you have triggered collective consultation or are making individual roles redundant, we can help you navigate your way through. Call Rob on 07494 161169 or Nicci on 07908 875146 for an introductory consultation.

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