Our client was a law firm that had, over a period of about a year, sought a merger with another law firm.
As time wore on it became clear that a full merger may not be possible due to the diversity of the firm’s legal services and the Board reached a decision that it would instead seek to hive off its various divisions to a number of interested firms.
Due to the fact that concurrent negotiations subsequently took place with three separate law firms, the Board was not in a position to announce its intentions to staff until provisional agreement had been reached with all three.
When this position was reached, the result was a situation where multiple TUPE consultations were necessary, as well as a collective redundancy process involving the firm’s support functions. There was a 30 day window for this to be completed.
The firm had limited HR resource to call on and the TUPE and redundancy consultations had already begun when the Board approached Beststart HR for assistance. It had become clear that the amount of work associated with running multiple consultation processes was larger than originally anticipated, and as the process had already begun, they required immediate on the ground support. By this point the 30 day window had extended to 60 days.
The Board was quite clear about how they wanted the project to run – the HR Director was to continue to be involved in the TUPE conversations with the three acquiring firms. However, shortly after the project started the HR Director left and the full responsibility fell to the Beststart HR project team.
The project was broken down into two distinct parts. Firstly, to manage the entire collective redundancy consultation process which involved 25 people, including a number of staff on maternity leave and long-term sick. Secondly, to carry out the necessary TUPE consultation process with three distinct groups of affected staff. All consultations were to be concluded within an 8 week timeframe, which included the prolonged Christmas and New Year break.
During this process we carried out the following:
- Provision of support and training for the Staff Representatives taking part in both the TUPE and redundancy consultations regarding their role and how to support employees during this process. Representatives had been elected but they did not understand what their role entailed and how they should fulfil their obligations to their constituents. This had led to a degree of ‘scare mongering’ and confusion between official communication and rumour both of which ended following the training and support provided.
- Continued with group consultation for the TUPE and redundancy process with the Staff Representatives and conducting 2 further meetings. At these meetings, verbatim minutes were taken and distributed to representatives shortly afterwards.
- Collated questions and issues arising from group consultation, drafting answers and publishing them. Once again, the clear and firm handling of the issues and concerns raised, both during and after consultation meetings, regained staff’s confidence in the process which had been lacking.
- Conducted 2 ‘surgeries’ on site to allow staff, however they were affected, to individually discuss their situation and have their concerns addressed.
- Carried out individual consultation meetings on site with all those ‘at risk’ of redundancy including providing job hunting and outplacement support.
- Coordinated the issuing of ‘notice of redundancy’ letters and the collation of information for payroll and pension.
- Maintained regular communication with the Partners and the project teams at the three acquiring firms. This allowed speedy resolution of any issues and a coordinated approach to bringing the project to a conclusion.
- Line managed the firm’s HR Administration team to ensure that all HR documentation was produced accurately; business as usual continued; and HR records were prepared to transfer.
The TUPE consultations took place within the 8 week window and transfers went ahead as planned with no issues or resignations. The Partners involved were complimentary of the advice and support provided during what they had found to be a stressful process.
The group redundancy consultation process was conducted successfully and individual consultation was extended to accommodate changing business needs. There were no formal appeals or Employment Tribunal claims as a result of the redundancies and many employees were able to secure new employment quickly.