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Alternatives to redundancy – Lay-offs and short-time working

We are all concerned that the time it will take for the economy to recover to previous levels of activity and to overcome the significant disruption will lead to large numbers of people losing their jobs. Most employers will want to avoid that and will look to ways to avoid it.

In fact, employers have an obligation to avoid redundancies where they can by looking at alternative solutions to a lack of work. The most common alternatives are

  • short-time working (reducing employees’ working hours)
  • lay-offs (sending employees home temporarily)


These options may help avoid redundancies, but employers should look at other options first including, for example, agreeing with employees to:

  • take holiday
  • work more flexibly
  • take unpaid leave


Once all the options are exhausted then employers can only lay off employees or put them on short-time working if they have the right to do so. They may have that right if it’s:

  • included in the employee’s contract of employment
  • custom and practice in the workplace
  • a national agreement for the industry
  • an agreement between your workplace and a trade union


If none of the above apply then an employee can agree with their employer to change the terms of their contract to include lay-offs or short-time working.

If it’s a permanent change to the contract, the employer must confirm in writing what’s been agreed within 1 month of the change. Even where it’s a temporary change to the contact, it’s also a good idea for the employer to confirm what’s been agreed in writing.

Employees should get full pay during lay-offs or short-time working, unless they agree otherwise or their contract of employment allows it.

If you need legal advice on redundancy matters or changes to employment contracts please call our employment team on 0114 255891 / 0114 256666.

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