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Fairness in Dominic Cummings’s behaviour may provide learning for easing the lockdown and potential redundancies.

On return from lockdown, employers are now worrying about redundancies and the motivation of employees who have worked during the lockdown compared to those who have had a “paid break”. So, what can we learn from Dominic Cummings?

Cummings was party to the rules and most probably behind the three-part mantra: Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. But many people feel that he interpreted the rules to his own advantage. There is a lesson here. If you make the rules be seen to keep them.

This is important because fairness in the workplace is a major motivator, more important to most than money. It is one reason Employment Tribunal cases can be so damaging. Apart from costs, and the wasted management time, they test the fairness of the employer. The Cummings case has transfixed the public (or at least the media) over the last few days. Similarly, ex-employees bringing Tribunal cases can captivate current employees. They might spend time discussing it and get less work done. But it can also affect their view of their employer.

So being fair, and being seen to be fair, is crucial. If you own a restaurant, then pay for the bottles of wine you take from it. If you make the rules, don’t bend them.

As for furloughed, non-furloughed employees and redundancy selection, it is important that any selection is fair and is seen to be fair. I’d suggest you should be prepared to listen and, if you have made any misjudgments, be prepared to admit them. How fairly you handle any redundancies could be critical to the success of your business going forward.

Thinking about redundancies at the end of furlough?

Some studies* indicate fair management can account for a 20% increase in productivity. Would you get that by increasing pay by 20%? Having designed “incentive” schemes in my past, I am sure not.

Dominic Cummings reminds of the risks in bending the rules – relevant when it comes to returns to work, potential redundancies, and fairness.

*Colquitt, J. A., Conlon, D. E., Wesson, M. J., Porter, C. O., & Ng, K. Y. (2001). Justice at the millennium.

Please get in touch if you need any support – we are advising organisations daily on all HR elements of COVID-19.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

Blogs are for general guidance and are not an authoritative statement of the law.