An HR administrator was unfairly dismissed after a tribunal ruled her employer made her redundant and failed to consult with her during a company-wide restructuring exercise.
The Reading employment tribunal (ET) found there was no proper consultation with Mrs H Bagri, an HR administrator for Oracle, about ways to avoid redundancy.
Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto rejected Oracle’s arguments that Bagri’s role as an HR professional meant she would have “[complained] about inadequate consultation”, and the fact that Bagri did not do so “showed there was an adequate consultation”.
An additional complaint of breach of contract was dismissed.
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Bagri began employment with NetSuite, a cloud computing company, in November 2010 and was transferred to Oracle on 1 January 2017, where she worked until her dismissal in March 2017.
She claimed she was notified by her line manager, Caroline Martin, that she was at risk of redundancy in November 2016, before NetSuite was subsequently acquired by Oracle. She was told her employment would potentially end in May 2017.
However, on 14 December, following some confusion within the organisation about where the information that Bagri faced redundancy originated, Cathy Temple, vice president of HR at Oracle, met with Bagri and informed her that her role was not at risk of redundancy.
At the meeting, Temple also spoke to Bagri about an HR consultant role that Oracle had advertised three months previously, which Bagri had been recommended for. However, Bagri had informed the UK central HR manager for Oracle that she was not interested in the role.
In February 2017, Temple performed a review of the HR team’s resourcing needs and determined that a business reorganisation was required. Bagri’s role would no longer exist as the task she was undertaking – transitioning NetSuite employees to Oracle – could be automated, carried out through self-service processes or centralised in other teams.
Martin informed Bagri by letter that her role was at risk on 1 March, and Bagri said after receiving the letter that she had no contact with the HR team about her role or any consultation meetings. She denied that Martin carried out any consultation meeting with her and said Martin did not encourage her to seek alternative roles on Oracle’s website.
Temple made the decision to terminate Bagri’s role because of redundancy, and she was dismissed on 31 May.
Bagri appealed the decision to dismiss her, stating that she was identified for redundancy because she had transferred from NetSuite to Oracle. She was told the appeal process was to be conducted on paper and by way of written correspondence, and was not invited to an appeal meeting.
The appeal was dealt with by Claire Bennett, vice president EMEA HR for Oracle, who said she “did not feel that the points raised within the appeal required any further direct questions to [Bagri]”. Bennett decided not to uphold the appeal.
Bagri brought claims of unfair dismissal and breach of contract to the Reading ET on 29 August.
She argued that the reason for her dismissal was the transfer itself. She said she had been told there would be individual consultations, but she was not invited to any meetings. She added that there was no evidence of any formal meetings, which Oracle said did occur.
She argued that Oracle “had no intention of retaining her after the transfer” and made no attempt to integrate her into the organisation or the HR team.
But Oracle argued that it was not until Bagri’s work transitioning fellow NetSuite employees was nearly complete that the need for her to carry out a particular kind of work diminished, and that her role was unique in its mix of HR consultancy and administration work.
Oracle also argued that Bagri did not seem “genuinely interested” in remaining in the business, and that despite her role as a “qualified and experienced HR professional” she did not complain about any deficiencies in the redundancy process.
The tribunal ruled that Bagri had been unfairly dismissed, and there was a “50 per cent chance that [she] would have continued in employment if she was not unfairly dismissed”.
Judge Gumbiti-Zimuto concluded that there was no proper consultation with Bagri about ways to avoid redundancy. Angela Brumpton, partner at Gunnercooke, said it was essential for employers to document redundancy consultations as tribunals expect well-resourced employers with HR functions to keep records of important meetings.
She added that businesses should also use appeals as an opportunity to “fix any deficiencies in the initial dismissal”.
“Some employers see appeals as a box-ticking exercise, or a necessary evil, when actually a thorough appeals process can cure procedural defects,” Brumpton said. “Savvy employers embrace appeals as an opportunity to review the initial process and plug any gaps.”
Bagri could not be reached for comment. Oracle has been contacted for comment.