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The use of a ‘pool of one’ in selecting for redundancy

28th August, 2012

When making redundancies an employer should distinguish an appropriate group, or pool, of potential employees to make redundant. To this pool he or she should apply objective and reasonable criteria as part of a fair selection process. But what happens if your candidate is in a pool of one?

In the recent case of Halpin v Sandpiper Books Ltd [2012] the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the Employment Tribunal was correct to hold the pool of selection for redundancy could consist of one, if they are the only person doing the job which is being made redundant.

Mr Halpin joined Sandpiper Books Ltd in 2007 as an administrator and analyst. In 2008, the management of the company made the decision to try to expand to sell books in China. He was given a job of developing sales in China, using the language skills he had acquired teaching English as a foreign language in China previously. While Mr Halpin was in China working in his new position, many of the administrative roles previously filled by him were disbursed among his colleagues, absorbing the old job. When Sandpiper Books made the choice to outsource the work to an agency in China, Mr Halpin’s post was placed at risk of redundancy. As he was in a unique position and his job was the only one no longer required, he was identified in a pool of one. The redundancy process involved extensive consultation with Mr Halpin. He was offered reduced working hours as an alternative to redundancy, but this was rejected and he was made redundant.

The Employment Tribunal dismissed Mr Halpin’s claim for unfair dismissal as it was content that the redundancy situation was genuine and that he had been fairly selected due to “his unique position dealing solely with sales and based in China”. Mr Halpin appealed the judgment on the grounds that the selection pool for redundancy should have included those with the same skills and not just those whose work had been reduced. The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal and said it is wrong for the Employment Tribunal to make itself the decision-maker as to pools.

The position relating to the pool of one was further clarified this week by Wrexham Golf Club Ltd v Ingham [2012]. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the Employment Tribunal was incorrect to hold the dismissal of a sole bar steward for redundancy was unfair because a selection pool of more than one had not been considered. The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the ‘range of reasonable responses test’ also applies to the use of a pool of one. The tribunal should have asked itself whether it was reasonable for the employer not to have considered selection from a wider range of employees than just the one.

These cases suggest that where a person is working in a unique position and the work they do in that position is no longer needed; it is reasonable for that person to be selected for redundancy in a pool of one. However employers should always be reminded to carefully consider how they identify the pool for redundancy, even where it does consist of just one person, in order to be able to justify the decision if challenged.

For advice or information on selection for redundancies, please contact Claire Brook on 01244 405575 or send an email to [email protected].

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