Length of employment can be a factor in redundancy decisions

A ruling by the Court of Appeal has opened the door to taking the length of time an employee has been working for a firm into account when making decisions about redundancies.

The Court was judging the case of older Rolls Royce workers who were facing being laid off by the company.

The case rested on whether including the number of years an employee has been working as part of the redundancy selection process breached the anti-age discrimination regulations.

The concern was that using length of service might contravene the law because it is unfair on younger employees.

However, the Court ruled that Rolls Royce could nominate length of employment as an acceptable factor in making redundancy decisions.

But the judgment also emphasised that the amount of time an employee has been working for an employer should only be one of several redundancy criteria that are taken into consideration and that the ruling should not be interpreted as condoning length of service as the sole factor for laying off an employee.

The Rolls Royce workers were represented the trade union, Unite.

The union said that older employees deserve the extra protection the ruling affords because they were less likely to find alternative employment during the economic downturn.

Employees facing redundancy selection at Rolls Royce were assessed according to their achievement, self-motivation, expertise, versatility and personal contribution. Only then were the workers allocated an extra score for each year they had worked for the company.

Derek Simpson, the joint general secretary of Unite, commented: “We are delighted with this decision. The ruling sets a precedent, where other factors are equal, for protecting older workers from the effects of redundancy.”

Lawyers, though, warned that the judgment should not be viewed as supporting the old fashioned ‘last in first out’ approach.