Pool of one: the “inelegant phrase”

13 Sep 2012

As our regular readers, as well as those of you who attended our June Seminar, will know, there has recently been something of a spate of cases concerning redundancy dismissals.  Employers and HR professionals will have noted with relief that the general tenor of the Judgments has been in favour of employers.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") has now handed down another Judgment which will provide comfort to employers contemplating difficult redundancy situations.

In the case of Wrexham Golf Company Limited v Ingham, Mr Ingham was employed by the Golf Club as the Resident Club Steward and his responsibilities included general management of the bar area.

In October 2010, driven by the need to cut costs, the Club's Board concluded that it would be possible to merge the bar and catering operations and that, as a result, the role of Club Steward was no longer necessary.

The Club consulted with Mr Ingham over the proposal and the fact that, if implemented, his employment would be terminated by reason of redundancy were it not possible to find him suitable alternative work.

Mr Ingham's employment was terminated in due course and he subsequently brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal, in reaching its decision that Mr Ingham had been unfairly dismissed, concluded that the Club, by failing to consider any sort of selection pool, which meant Mr Ingham was automatically selected for redundancy, had acted unreasonably.

The Golf Club appealed against the finding of unfair dismissal and the EAT agreed that the Tribunal's reasoning was wrong.

In giving the Judgment of the EAT, His Honour Judge David Richardson noted that although the word "pool" in connection with redundancy consultation has no statutory meaning, it is "well known to employment lawyers and those who work in human resources".
Judge Richardson went on to state that "There is no rule that there must be a pool: an employer, if he has good reason for doing so, may consider a single employee for redundancy … Thus it is sometime said that there may be a “pool of one”; a somewhat inelegant phrase representing an underlying reality."
On the basis of its reasoning that there is nothing inherently unfair about a pool one, the EAT concluded that the Employment Tribunal's decision had to be reviewed.

Our view:

We are frequently asked whether an employer can fairly dismiss an employee from a "pool of one".  This, very sensible, decision from the EAT, reiterates that it is possible, provided that the employer has properly thought about whether the affected role does stand alone.