The legal meaning of redundancy is far more complex than the popular view. The general principle is that redundancies arise when an employer’s requirement for work of a particular kind done by an employee has ceased or diminished, temporarily or permanently. It is often unclear whether an employer’s action in altering work arrangements amounts to redundancy or not.

In a recent case, H, who was employed as a supervisor, was given written warnings about her performance. She told one of her superiors that she was pregnant.

The employers decided that redundancies were needed because of the company’s business position. It selected employees for redundancies on the basis of scoring against a matrix scheme.

The person responsible for scoring knew that H was pregnant. H scored lowest and was selected for redundancy. The next lowest scorer was a trainee who had been supervised by H.

H complained of sex discrimination. The employment tribunal upheld her complaint and found that, if she had not been pregnant, the trainee would have been selected for redundancy. It made the following points:

• There had been considerable scope for subjective views and opinions to have influenced the scoring.
• The reason for H’s selection for dismissal was her pregnancy.
• Her selection for dismissal, and the dismissal itself, was sex discrimination and the dismissal had been unfair.
• The employer had acted in a high-handed and malicious way in deliberately scoring H lower than the trainee.
• H should be awarded a total of £16,000 compensation.

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