Wrexham Golf Club Co Ltd v Ingham EAT/0190/12
unfair dismissal | redundancy selection | selection pool
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that, where the employer put an employee into a redundancy "pool of one" and did not consider the possibility of putting a wider pool of employees at risk of redundancy, the employment tribunal did not properly consider whether or not restricting the pool to one fell within the "range of reasonable responses".
Implications for employers
- Employers do not have to determine a redundancy selection pool where an individual role is no longer necessary, and there is only one employee carrying out that role.
- If there are other roles that are the same or similar (in this case, bar and catering staff), the employer should seriously consider whether or not employees in those roles should be included in the redundancy selection pool.
Mr Ingham was a club steward at Wrexham Golf Club, and one of 11 employees at the club. His responsibilities included management of the bar area, cashing up and locking up at the end of the evening, and taking sole responsibility of the clubhouse area over the weekend.
When the club's board decided that money needed to be saved, a committee was appointed to look at all aspects of bar and catering facilities, including staff costs. Its unanimous view was that the role of club steward was no longer required and it was proposed that bar and catering should effectively become one operation. The club steward's activities would be undertaken by other members of staff.
The club's secretary, Mr West, informed Mr Ingham that there would be a period of consultation to seek suggestions or ideas from him as to how his potential redundancy could be avoided. There were a number of meetings and an offer of a four-week trial period of 11 hours' bar work. Mr Ingham protested in writing that it was not appropriate to distribute some parts of his role to other members of staff, since they were less experienced. He also argued that, while the bar operated at a profit, the catering facilities operated at a loss. He questioned why there should be a redundancy in the bar, when other avenues did not return a profit. Nevertheless, Mr Ingham's redundancy was confirmed and he claimed unfair dismissal.
The employment tribunal concluded that the club "did not act within the range of reasonable responses" in choosing to make Mr Ingham redundant and his dismissal was unfair. No consideration was given to the possibility of establishing a pool from which any redundancies could be made and it was clear from the outset that, if any employee was to be made redundant, it would be Mr Ingham. The tribunal felt that the club should have considered the issue of a redundancy pool. The club appealed to the EAT.
The EAT considered that the key issue was whether or not the dismissal was unfair because of the club's failure to consider establishing a pool, rather than concentrating on the position of Mr Ingham as club steward.
The EAT observed that, while the word "pool" is not found in s.98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, it is well known to employment lawyers and human resources as the group of employees who will be considered for selection for redundancy. There is no rule that there must be a pool and the employer, if it has a good reason, may consider a single employee for redundancy. A "pool of one", described by the EAT as "a somewhat inelegant phrase representing an underlying reality", is allowed when one position is genuinely no longer required.
The EAT highlighted Capita Hartshead Ltd v Byard EAT/0445/11, in which the employer's decision to restrict a redundancy selection to one employee when there were other employees doing the same job who could have been put in a redundancy selection pool made that employee's dismissal unfair.
In the present case, while conscious that the employment tribunal did refer to s.98(4) and to the range of reasonable responses test, the EAT concluded that the tribunal did not apply that test to the question of whether or not it was reasonable for the club to focus on the steward as the person at risk of redundancy. The tribunal did not criticise the club's conclusion that the role of club steward should cease. The tribunal should have stopped to consider: given the nature of the job of club steward, was it reasonable for the employer not to consider developing a wider pool of employees? The tribunal did not say why it was unreasonable for the employer to restrict its redundancy selection to a "pool of one".
The EAT ordered that the case be reheard by a freshly constituted tribunal to consider whether or not it was within the range of reasonable responses for the club, once it had decided that the role of club steward was to disappear, to focus on the club steward as the person at risk of redundancy, without developing a pool.
Case transcript of Wrexham Golf Club Co Ltd v Ingham (on the BAILII website)