A Glasgow employment tribunal has ruled that managers at Stirling University who laid off 100 workers on fixed-term contractors without consulting union representatives broke the law. The university now faces having to pay around £500,000 in compensation to the workers affected.
Employers who plan to lay off 20 or more employees must carry out what's called 'collective consultation' for 90 days before anyone is made redundant. The university asserted the law did not apply in their case, however, because the workers were on fixed-term contracts.
The University and College Union (UCU) disagreed, arguing the layoffs qualified as redundancies and that Stirling had a legal duty to collectively consult on ways to mitigate and/or avoid dismissals.
Employment Tribunal Judge Paul Cape backed the union and found that staff, who each earned between £20,000 to £30,000 per year, had a right to receive 90 days' paid consultation.
Responding to the verdict, UCU official Mary Senior said: "This is a very important victory for the former members of staff at the Stirling University who should not have been dismissed as they were.
"It is also an important ruling for the thousands of university staff on fixed-term contracts around the UK.
"Universities have to understand that they cannot just wait for fixed-term contracts to expire to get rid of staff."
Stirling University's HR director Martin McCrindle, meanwhile, said: "This is a complex judgement and the university needs time to consider its detailed implications.
"We, like other universities, will continue to employ academic staff on fixed-term contracts to ensure we achieve our research goals in the difficult funding environment that we are experiencing, in common with the rest of the sector."
- Stirling University 'broke law' when laying off staff (BBC News)
- Redundancy rights (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Employment law Q&A (Community)
- Find an employment solicitor (Contact Law)