When you decide to wind down your practice, there are two possible routes - you close it completely, or you sell the practice on. Either way, there are obligations on you to ensure that you manage it correctly in the eyes of the law, particularly in respect of your employees.
Closing your practice
If you intend to close the practice down completely, any employees who remain at your practice at the time it closes will be made redundant. Redundancies are 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. Although, 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.
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 periods that must be adhered to. This means that the redundancy process may take some time.
You might want to think about drafting in specialists to advise employees on updating their CVs or enhancing their job search skills
Where the number of affected employees is less 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. The 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.