To Be Redundant Or Not To Be Redundant: That Is The Question!

DWP targetting benefit claimants

Jobcentre Plus workers had right to redundancy pay, finds tribunal 

Two former Jobcentre Plus (JCP) workers who were told to join the dole queue after extensions to their fixed term contracts were not honoured are celebrating a landmark legal victory which could have wider repercussions for hundreds more who were dismissed in similar circumstances.

A judge in the case ruled that the staff, brought in to help deal with the rise in unemployment benefit claimants, should now receive redundancy payments, after they were dismissed to satisfy government headcount targets. The decision could now see hundreds of others share more than £1million in compensation.

Although the claimants said they were aware of the ‘temporary nature of their contracts’, case QC Forde said: “It is not sufficient to simply describe this [the dismissals] as a requirement for fewer employees.”

He added: “It is artificial to simply consider the end of the contract without looking at its beginning. The reason why the contract was not renewed is a question of fact with cannot be answered by simply saying that the claimants were not required at the end.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which supported the two former employees with their case said the verdict makes it clear that these and similar dismissals were for breach of contract. He chastised the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) for its failure to accept this in the first place.

He said: “The DWP should have treated these workers properly, not like cheap labour, to be hired and fired on a whim. This case exposes something deeply rotten at the heart of government, where vital public services are cut to the bone purely to suit a political agenda.”

A PCS spokesman also added that the extensions took the staff beyond the minimum two year period that makes them eligible for redundancy. The verdict now means these and other similarly dismissed employees are eligible to a termination payment under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.

Andrew James, solicitor at Thompsons, which acted for the claimants, said: “I am delighted the claimants have succeeded. Thousands of fixed-term employees were dismissed to meet ministerial headcount reductions. The DWP’s argument that this did not amount to redundancy flew in the face of both clear legal authority and plain common sense.”

After 2009, the number of staff at JCP on fixed term contracts grew from 300 to 13,000. Not long afterwards the DWP began a ban on recruiting permanent JCP employees, and was then forced to reduce headcount, by 19 per cent in 2010, to meet spending targets, despite the volume of work for the remaining staff increasing.

PCS deputy general secretary Hugh Lanning said: “Of all departments, DWP should have known better. This is their ‘day’ job. it was obvious to us that they made staff redundant. I hope it acts swiftly now to pay all the staff affected by this decision the money they are owed.”

Source: Crush, P. (2013) Extensions to fixed term contracts costs DWP £1m in compensation. People Management.

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