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Macclesfield College threatened with unfair dismissal warnings as 8 staff are axed

4 December 2020

UCU said Macclesfield College was at risk of unfair dismissal claims if it did not reinstate staff it sacked without notice.

The union said the college's actions have reduced teaching staff for over 100 students and put livelihoods at risk just before Christmas.

The college wrote to its staff on 17 November, during the second lockdown, to tell them that its eight curriculum business leaders' jobs were at risk. It then informed the affected staff that their roles were redundant with immediate effect on Tuesday and offered them fixed-term and hourly-paid teaching contracts instead. The employer claims that the short notice of the second lockdown means they had not had the opportunity to sign-up sufficient apprenticeship numbers or to enrol to adult education budget funded provision, leading to a projected shortfall of £750,000.

UCU said the college's rationale does not make sense as the affected staff predominantly work with 16-19 year old students where funding is already guaranteed rather than apprenticeships and adult education. The decision for government funding allocations for the 2020/21 academic year was confirmed at the end of March 2020 and the 4.7% funding increase for 16-19 education in 2020/21 should now be available to the college. UCU has repeatedly requested emergency meetings in accordance with the college's own redundancy policy to discuss the proposals but the college has not replied.

UCU slammed the college's decision to try to mitigate against redundancy by offering affected staff fixed-term and hourly-paid teaching contracts. The union said the college is at risk of unfair dismissal claims as the need for the teaching work undertaken by the affected staff is still required, whilst the staff have not been allowed to serve their notice period. It said this has left over 100 students without a lecturer due to a number of classes being cancelled.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: 'The college says it needs to make cuts due to a fall in apprentices but axing staff without letting them serve their notice is impacting students across the college. Over 100 students have now been left without their lecturer due to the redundancies with classes being cancelled. The college's decision threatens to damage the learning experience of its students and to devastate the livelihoods of hardworking staff in the run up to Christmas.

'We understand the financial pressures colleges are facing due to Covid-19, and the knock-on losses to apprenticeship income and are urging government to provide colleges more financial support. But this looks like a knee-jerk reaction, and the college is leaving itself open to unfair dismissal claims by not addressing the fact the staff's teaching work has not diminished, and for not allowing enough time to both complete a meaningful consultation and for staff to serve their notice period.

Last updated: 7 December 2020