Closing your practice: employee rights

Figures show that GP practice closures are at an all-time high. If your practice is facing closure, you’ve got a lot to consider and to plan for. Nicola Mullineux provides an overview of how you can mitigate the impact on employees if closure is your only option

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the MDU Journal

If you intend to close your practice down completely, any employees who remain there at the time it closes will be made redundant. Redundancy is never an easy option because it means the termination of employment through no fault of their own. Terminating employment because of redundancy is classed as a dismissal and, therefore, following the correct procedure is paramount in this situation.

It is essential that you consult the affected staff. Consultation is a significant part of a redundancy process because it enables employees to offer suggestions that may lead to alternatives to their redundancy, such as redeployment in another part of the organisation. Even though, in your situation, the decision to wind up the practice means that you are not seeking alternatives to redundancy, consultation must still take place and this means keeping staff informed of what is going on.

How it works

The number of proposed redundancies dictates the specific procedure you should adopt. Larger practices, where there will be 20 or more redundancies, have a specific minimum consultation period that must be adhered to; this means that the redundancy process may take some time.

Where the number of affected employees is fewer than 20 there is no designated minimum time period for consultation but those set out in any contractual redundancy policy, or agreed with a trade union, should be followed. In this situation, however, it may be that consultation consists of, for example, three meetings with staff over a period of two weeks. Formal notice of redundancy should then be given, and employees must be given the notice period they are entitled to in their contract of employment.

If there are any associated employers, consultation should involve the offer of any suitable alternative work with those employers. Such work must offer no substantially less favourable terms than their employment with you. Employees on maternity leave are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative job in favour of all other employees who are not on maternity leave.

Staff with two years’ service, or more, will be entitled to receive statutory redundancy pay from you. The amount is calculated in accordance with a formula which takes into consideration the employee’s age, length of service and weekly pay. Statutory redundancy pay is subject to a cap in terms of the number of years’ service that can count towards the calculation and weekly pay, which is currently fixed at £464. Calculation of redundancy pay should be set out in writing to the redundant employees.

If you wish to help your employees further you might want to think about drafting in specialists to advise them on updating their CVs or enhancing their job search skills in preparation for finding alternative employment.

Selling on your practice

Separate legislation protects your employees’ rights when you sell on your practice. They will automatically become employees of the new employer, subject to certain criteria being met; termination of their employment merely because of the takeover would be unfair and could leave both you and the new employer open to a tribunal claim.

Strict rules apply in terms of providing the new employer with information on the employees’ terms and conditions and keeping your staff informed of what will be happening. Redundancies by the new employer cannot be ruled out in this situation, so it is vital to keep employees up-to-date with developments.

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