Legal update: Recruiting during a restructuring exercise

17 June 2014

In a restructuring exercise where employees were invited to apply for new roles, the recruitment process was so opaque that the dismissals were unfair held the EAT in Council of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne v Ford and Ors.

As part of a restructuring and downsizing of a department, all employees were invited to apply for a new role in the new structure.  To apply the employees had to submit an expression of interest letter and go through an interview process.  The interview involved six questions, the answers to which were scored.  The maximum score could be 104 points and the council set a minimum score of 46 points for successful candidates.  As it turned out the highest any employee scored was 24 and only one candidate was successful at the interview.  This lead to the conclusion that the marking of one of the Claimants was “self-evidently bizarre” and the results for candidates of their level of experience was abysmal.
The original Employment Tribunal concluded that the Claimants did not have a fair opportunity to save their jobs because they were given inadequate information about the recruitment process and new structure of the Council, including failures to relate differences between the old and new jobs, to explain that the expression of interest letter was disregarded and to explain that previous knowledge of the candidates (who were all internal and long serving employees) would not be taken into account.

In this case a rigid recruitment process was adopted which did not seem to serve the employer well as candidates were not able to showcase themselves. This failed to comply with basic rules of fairness.  Employers in similar restructuring and recruitment processes should be transparent about the process and consider what really works for them.  A failure to get the best out of candidates for interview is unlikely to result in the best recruit being hired.

For further information, please contact a member of the employment law team.

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