The one question which members are asking about the new redundancy policy is: why now?
What is Lloyds planning to do in the future that makes it want to reduce redundancy payments for heritage Lloyds and HBOS staff? History tells us that Lloyds is up to no good. Is the Bank planning large scale redundancies in non-branch areas and wants the flexibility to force fit staff into different roles with the threat of significant reductions in redundancy payments if they refuse to accept alternative roles? Lloyds will say that it wants to keep good staff and find them alternative roles. But that’s always been the case. Nobody’s forced the Bank to make staff redundant in the past. It’s done so willingly. And why does it need to threaten staff with reduced redundancy payments?
What staff are also asking is why would any union agree to its members being forced into roles they don’t want or can’t do with the threat that if they don’t accept those roles, they’ll be forced out with significantly reduced redundancy payments? And Unite and Accord have both agreed that it will be HR who decides whether an alternative role or reskilling opportunity is ‘reasonable’. The appeals process is a sham.
Much has been written recently about whether the heritage Lloyds terms are contractual. Those terms are contractual and even the Bank accepts that a Court would find that to be the case. The heritage Lloyds terms were the subject of collective bargaining and agreed with this union. Unite has said that its legal advisers can’t find any evidence that the terms are contractual. We suggest it finds alternative legal advisers. Moreover, Unite’s only ever had a handful of members in Lloyds, that’s still the case now. and it might not have been involved in those collective bargaining negotiations with the Lloyds at the time the agreed redundancy terms were introduced: I was involved and I’m clear what was agreed.
In any event, the legality of the Lloyds redundancy terms will be decided by a Court, when the bank gets rid of its first member of BTU under the new redundancy policy. Unite will avoid an Employment Tribunal like the plague. And the only time Accord has been at an Employment Tribunal was when its General Secretary supported the Bank’s decision to deny salary increase to 11,000 female members of staff who refused to sign the harmonised contract of employment. BTU won that case despite Accord undermining staff and working with the Bank.
‘Suitable’ v ‘Reasonable’
If a member of staff subject to redundancy is offered a ‘suitable alternative role’ and refuses it unreasonably, he or she could leave the Bank with no redundancy payment. That’s always been the case. However, what constitutes a ‘suitable alternative employment’- as opposed to the Bank’s new ‘reasonable’ alternative role test – is a legal test governed by the law, not Lloyds.
In ‘suitable alternative employment’ cases, the employer has the burden of proving that the employment offered was suitable and that the employee’s refusal of it was unreasonable. Similarly, it is necessary to decide whether the particular employee in question (and not some other hypothetical reasonable employee) was reasonable in refusing the offer, i.e. had sound and justifiable reasons. This is judged from the employee’s point of view, on the basis of the facts as they appeared or should have appeared to the employee at the time of the refusal.
That’s a significant burden for the Bank to overcome which is why we’ve never had any cases in the past. It knows that, which is why it’s come up with its ‘reasonable alternative’ test. However, in an Employment Tribunal the Bank’s ‘reasonable alternative role’ test will have no legal standing.
Accord and Unite members need to consider the fact that if they are forced to leave the Bank on significantly reduced redundancy terms their unions will find it impossible to protect them legally because they have both agreed to the new policy. We don’t have that problem.
Members with any questions on this Newsletter should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1), or contact us via the website here.
MEMBERS SHOULD PASS THIS NEWSLETTER ON TO THEIR COLLEAGUES SO THEY TOO CAN BENEFIT FROM THE ONLY INDEPENDENT TRADE UNION IN LLOYDS & HALIFAX.