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Overcapacity within education staffing structures is one area where vital costs savings can be made.
However, restructuring can be met with significant opposition from staff and unions and negatively impact on morale.
Once you have announced a proposed restructure, employees and their unions are likely to have lots of questions. If the proposed restructure will result in redundancies, you will need to be in a position to terminate employment fairly by establishing that there is a genuine redundancy situation. Before starting consultation, it’s, therefore, a good idea to put together a detailed plan, including the following:
The process of developing this plan should also address that there is a genuine need for a restructure and that this is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a short-term problem.
Something else to bear in mind when looking at potential savings is whether there is likely to be any safeguarding of pay once you have made the proposed changes. In some circumstances, safeguarding can last for up to three years, so, for some staff, the potential wage savings may take some time to ease your bottom line.
Once this plan is complete, you can also use this to help governors who will need to approve a proposal to change the staffing structure.
Collective consultation is the process of consulting with representatives of employees who are likely to be affected by the restructure. Where your school recognises one or more unions, this will be with representatives from those unions.
The duty to collectively consult arises where an employer proposes to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees within 30 days. For these purposes, the term ‘redundant’ has a broad meaning. As well as applying to any employees who are likely to lose their job, it will also include those whose jobs may be changed as a result of the restructure.
Where there is a duty to collectively consult, you must wait 30 calendar days (or 45 days where 100 or more employees may be affected) before any dismissal or change takes place.
Where fewer than 20 employees are likely to be affected, you should still check your own restructure policies for additional requirements in relation to consultation.
Collective consultation with unions or other employee representatives will not replace the requirement to consult individually with employees.
To reduce the number of compulsory redundancies, you may wish to consider inviting staff to apply for voluntary redundancy. The advantages to this are that voluntary redundancies are likely to have a less negative impact on morale among remaining staff and remove the need to go through a full redundancy process. However, there is a risk that you may lose members of staff that had significant experience and skills that you would have preferred to retain.
If staff are invited to volunteer, you should ensure that any applications for voluntary redundancy are made subject to acceptance by the school, and reserve the right to refuse any application in the event that it does not fit with the school’s needs.
Once your school has decided to go ahead with a restructure, you’ll often be keen to get it done. However, there are several factors which could impact how long it may take:
Our advice for calculating the likely time frames for a restructuring exercise would be to start from the date you would want to implement the new structure and work back from there, incorporating all the necessary stages and to ensure that the process starts in good time.
Once you have announced a restructure and consultation begins, it can be challenging to stay in control of the process, especially if this is your first school restructure. Your head may feel bombarded by questions from staff and unions who may also want additional time to consider the information given to them. And where the process has been timed to hit a particular termination date, even a slight delay could result in significantly higher notice payments than you had originally anticipated.
To avoid the process being derailed in this way, as well as anticipating potential issues at the planning stage, you should ensure that requests for further information are considered and dealt with promptly and not left until the end of the consultation period.
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