The education sector is constantly evolving, with changes in student demand and teaching methods particularly relevant as we emerge from the COVID pandemic, so having an effective change management process in place is crucial. But what does an education institution, be it school, college or university, need to consider when managing change?
Redundancy and consultation
Occasionally, a redundancy situation may arise, due to reasons such as workplace closure or the need to reduce a workforce because of financial pressure.
If this is the case, an employer is legally obliged to consult its employees beforehand, either individually or collectively or both, subject to the number of employees affected. Details of the type of consultation required may also be listed in the union recognition agreement, which names the union(s) that have the right to represent and negotiate on behalf of employees in that workplace.
Drafting a business case
In the event of a potential redundancy situation arising, an employer will need to provide a business case, which will play an important role in the consultation process with the trade unions. It is a highly useful document that sets out the situation and redundancy proposal and should be drafted as early as possible.
When drafting a business case, it is important to include the following:
- Explanation of the potential redundancy situation
- Numbers and descriptions of the employees affected
- Alternative employment opportunities
- Impact on other employees
- Proposed method of selection
Common pitfalls of the document are not including enough information about the situation and what has been done to avoid it, as well as naming employees and treating the redundancy as a foregone conclusion.
Changing terms and conditions
Another element of change to consider is changes to the terms and conditions of employment.
If an employer wishes to make changes to an employee’s contract, they should first consider the contractual position and whether the changes are permitted. In the event a job description or contract is broadly drafted, then an employer may be able to implement change without changing the contract.
Alternatively, the employer may need to seek employee consent, usually via discussions with the trade unions. Failure to reach an agreement could result in the following options:
- Changes being imposed unilaterally (which is often legally risky)
- Terminating contracts and re-engaging on new terms
Termination and re-engagement also has the potential to result in the need for union consultation, depending on the union recognition agreement and/or the number of employees affected.
With a highly unionized environment, extra consideration should always be taken when implementing HR change within the education sector. In these uncertain times, it is vital that educational institutions plan HR change carefully to avoid further problems down the line.
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