The new broom sweeps clean: Musk’s redundancies will need to comply with Irish employment law

Last updated: November 10th, 2022

Elon Musk hasn’t wasted making changes at Twitter, with him making approximately half of the company’s global workforce redundant. While labour laws in the US don’t provide employees with much protection when it comes to terminating a contract of employment, Ireland-based staff enjoy a range of rights under Unfair Dismissals and Redundancy Payments legislation.

Moira Grassick, COO at Graphite, explains the rights that employees have under Irish employment law.

“It has been widely reported that Twitter staff received emails on Friday letting them know that their positions are being made redundant. While this direct approach is a way for the new owner to demonstrate that the company is moving in a different direction, any employees working in the Irish office facing redundancy could seek to enforce their rights under Irish and EU law if the relevant procedures are not followed prior to terminating their employment contract.”

Unfair selection

Given the sudden nature of these job cuts, employees are likely to query why they have been selected for redundancy. In a typical redundancy situation, the employer would need to be able to demonstrate that they used a fair and objective selection process to determine which employees to let go. This would include supporting paperwork recording why certain employees were selected for redundancy over others.

Employee consultation obligations

Redundancy proposals should include a consultation procedure to allow those employees who are at risk of redundancy to participate in the process and suggest possible alternatives to redundancies.

Collective redundancy procedures

If reports are true, the scale of these redundancies also bring it within the scope of the collective redundancy protections set out in the Protection of Employment Acts. As the thresholds that trigger collective redundancy protection look likely to be exceeded, Twitter will need to consider if they have complied with the obligations:

  • to engage in an information and consultation process with employees’ representatives, and
  • to notify the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment of the proposed collective redundancy.

Employers are prohibited from issuing any notice of redundancy during the mandatory employee information and consultation period and until 30 days have elapsed from the date on which the Minister has been notified.

A big statement but a lot of loose ends

Without knowing the exact make up of the workforce in Twitter’s Dublin office and the precise details of the redundancies, it is difficult to predict how much employment compliance will interfere with Musk’s plans to reduce the workforce.

For example, many tech workers operating under contracts for service are not afforded same rights as employees working under a contract of employment. Other employees may not have the required period of service to benefit from the protections set out in the Unfair Dismissals and Redundancy Payments legislation.

A botched redundancy process can expose a company to significant financial downsides. If an employee succeeds with an unfair dismissal claim, they may receive up to two years’ gross salary in compensation.

There is also the reputational damage that comes with a badly managed redundancy process. Any subsequent claims by employees and negative experiences have the potential to negatively impact on the reputation of a business.

Likewise, a poorly handled redundancy process risks alienating remaining employees. It may prove difficult to foster a positive working environment with these employees if they feel that colleagues have been treated unfairly or fear for their future down the line.

This is a difficult time for Twitter employees. It seems possible that many of them will seek legal advice if their employment rights are not upheld by the tech giant.

If you have questions about redundancy procedures, speak to one of our experts on (01) 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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