How can UK businesses legally navigate employee rights during a company-wide restructuring?

As a business owner, restructuring your company is a challenging process. When you're planning to make significant changes in your company's structure, one of the most crucial aspects to take into account is the rights of your employees. Whether it's a redundancy, a change in contract, or a complete business overhaul, adhering to the law is not only the right thing to do, it's a legal obligation. This article aims to provide clear advice, help you understand the compliance process, and equip you with the necessary knowledge to navigate the legal requirements within the UK context during a company-wide restructuring.

Understanding the legal implications for employee rights during restructuring

Restructuring can come in many forms. It might be a change in the operational system, a merger, or even a downsizing process. Regardless, this change will likely impact the employee's job position, making it necessary for employers to consider the legal implications during this process.

In the UK, the law stipulates certain rights that protect employees in these situations. These include the right not to be unfairly dismissed, the right to a redundancy pay if the employee has been with the employer for over two years, and the right to a consultation if 20 or more redundancies are being made within 90 days. Besides these rights, the employer is also legally obliged to follow a fair process in the dismissal.

Clear communication about these changes can help prevent misunderstandings and legal issues down the line. Therefore, it is essential to engage with employees transparently, highlighting the reasons for the restructuring and how it will affect their roles.

Navigating through the redundancy process

Redundancy is often a significant part of restructuring. It is the process where an employee's job ceases to exist, forcing the employer to terminate the contract. This can be a challenging situation to navigate, as it involves careful consideration and understanding of redundancy laws in the UK.

Firstly, employers must ensure that their selection for redundancy is fair and non-discriminatory. This includes considering factors such as length of service, skills, qualifications, and performance. Once the criteria for redundancy have been established, employers must then consult with the employees who are at risk. This consultation should include discussions about ways to avoid redundancy, potential alternative roles within the organisation, and the selection process.

For those with over two years of service, a redundancy payment must be made. This is calculated based on the employee's age, weekly pay, and length of service.

The importance of employee consultation during restructuring

In the UK, when an employer is making 20 or more employees redundant within 90 days, they are legally required to conduct a consultation. This consultation involves discussing the reasons behind the restructuring, the number of redundancies, and the selection criteria.

The consultation process is an opportunity to engage with your employees and create a two-way dialogue about the future of the business. During the consultation, employees have the right to ask questions, present ideas, and suggest alternatives to redundancy. By engaging in this process, employers can ensure they are meeting their legal obligations and handling the change in a sensitive and respectful way.

Managing contract changes with compliance

Sometimes, a company-wide restructuring might necessitate some changes to the employees' contracts. These changes could be a shift in job roles, reduction in hours, or a change in location. When these changes occur, employers have a legal obligation to obtain the employees' agreement.

To legally change a contract, the employer should explain the changes and why they are necessary, get the employee's agreement (either in writing or verbally), and provide the employee with a written document detailing the changes within one month. If the employee does not agree with the changes, employers may have to consider other alternatives, such as redundancy, to maintain compliance.

Legal support and advice during restructuring

Navigating through the legal intricacies of a company-wide restructuring can be challenging and often requires professional guidance. Employers can seek the assistance of employment law specialists or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) for guidance during this process.

Legal advice in such situations can help businesses understand their obligations and responsibilities better, and also devise strategies to mitigate potential legal risks. This can include drafting new contracts, ensuring appropriate processes for redundancy, and providing advice on how to conduct a proper consultation process.

Restructuring is a challenging time for both employers and employees. Balance, sensitivity, and compliance with the law are crucial to ensuring a fair process. With the right advice and approach, businesses in the UK can successfully navigate their legal obligations while managing the restructuring process effectively, ensuring the respect and dignity of all employees involved. Remember, every step you take towards ensuring the rights of your employees during these changes can make a significant difference in their lives and the overall health of your business.

Addressing Employee Rights in a Voluntary Redundancy Situation

Voluntary redundancy is another aspect that can emerge during company-wide restructuring. In this scenario, an employer asks their staff if anyone would like to take redundancy voluntarily. This process can be a strategic move on the employer's part to reduce the workforce without having to enforce compulsory redundancy. However, it still has implications under employment law in the UK.

Voluntary redundancy follows similar legal protocols to that of regular redundancy. In this situation, employees are not obliged to accept the offer. If they choose to do so, they are entitled to the same rights as those facing compulsory redundancy, including redundancy pay, the notice period and a consultation.

The amount of redundancy pay is calculated based on the employee's age, length of service, and weekly pay, similar to a compulsory redundancy. The legal minimum, also known as the statutory redundancy pay, must be given unless your employer offers a higher amount under your employment contract.

The selection criteria differ in voluntary redundancy. While in compulsory redundancy, the selection is based on factors such as performance and skills, in voluntary redundancy, the employer has more discretion to accept or reject the volunteers based on their business needs.

It is important not to rush into a voluntary redundancy situation without careful consideration and potentially seeking legal advice. It is crucial to understand your rights and the implications of accepting voluntary redundancy.

When a Mobility Clause is Activated During the Restructuring Process

In some cases, a company-wide restructuring might involve a change of location. When this occurs, it's crucial to understand the implications of the mobility clause in an employment contract.

A mobility clause is a term in the employment contract that allows employers to require employees to move their place of work. However, this clause has its restrictions and cannot be enforced without reasonable notice and consideration for the employee's personal circumstances.

Employers should approach the activation of a mobility clause transparently, explaining the reasons for relocation and allowing time for employees to adjust. They should also take into account the individual circumstances of their employees, such as family commitments and travel difficulties.

If an employee refuses to comply with the mobility clause, they are technically committing a breach of contract. However, it's important to note that if the activation of the mobility clause is seen as unreasonable by an employment tribunal, it could be deemed an unfair dismissal. Therefore, it's crucial for employers to handle such situations sensibly and considerately.

In such circumstances, employers are recommended to seek legal advice to ensure they are handling the situation appropriately and in compliance with the employment laws.


The process of business restructuring can be a complex and challenging task, with many legal nuances that need to be navigated carefully. It is crucial for UK businesses to understand the immense importance of adhering to employment law to protect both the company and its employees.

During a company-wide restructuring, every decision made could have a significant impact on the employees' lives. Therefore, it's vital for businesses to act responsibly, ensuring that decisions made are not discriminatory and do not result in unfair dismissal.

Whether it's managing the redundancy process, addressing contract changes, or activating a mobility clause, employers need to ensure they uphold the rights of their employees, abide by the legal requirements, and handle each step of the process with sensitivity and care.

Seeking professional legal advice during this process can be invaluable, helping to navigate the complexities of employment laws, manage potential legal risks, and ensure that the restructuring process is handled as smoothly and fairly as possible.

Remember, while restructuring is ultimately about ensuring the survival and growth of the company, it also presents an opportunity to reaffirm the company's commitment to fairness, respect, and dignity for all its employees. This approach not only meets your legal obligations but also helps maintain a positive company culture in the face of change.