AAU Handbook

Staff reductions based on institutional circumstances

Aalborg University’s guidelines on staff reductions due to institutional circumstances

Published: 22.01.2018 (Last revised: 14.07.2020)

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Content

1. Preface

These guidelines aim to establish a clear framework for the handling of situations in which Aalborg University needs to implement budgetary cutbacks or structural changes resulting in employment-related consequences for employees at the University. Such situations may include budgetary cutbacks, discontinuation of funding, organisational changes etc.  The guidelines are based on AAU’s staff policy and must ensure that government acts, agreements and regulations in force are complied with and that situations are handled on the basis of close cooperation between the parties involved. They should also prevent unnecessary insecurity from arising and ensure that employees experience a supportive workplace culture with open, clear and appropriate processes, even in such situations.

The guidelines stipulate the issues to be discussed in the consultation committee as well as a time schedule for such discussion. They also state which levels should be involved (Local Consultation Committee (LSU), Faculty Consultation Committee (FSU), Main Joint Consultation Committee (HSU)).

The guidelines apply to all employees at Aalborg University.

2. Involvement of the HR Department

If the management are considering staff reductions due to institutional circumstances, the HR Department must be involved as early in the process as possible. This is to ensure that the management receives the necessary guidance, that procedures for inclusion of consultation committees are complied with and that ensuing dismissals of individuals due to institutional circumstances take place on a fair basis.

The HR Department must:

  • assist the management, trade union representatives and consultation committee as needed, i.e. provide guidance on general legal issues as well as on the planning of the process; this includes processing of the case by the consultation committee and the structuring of this process
  • ensure fairness, responsible conduct and compliance with laws, regulations and agreements applying to the area
  • contribute to cross-institutional cooperation on preventive and remedial measures
  • assist in the negotiation of possible agreements.

3. Involvement of the consultation committee

3.1 What should be discussed in the consultation committee?

The aim of the State’s Cooperation Agreement is to involve employees in activities that will ensure that targets and strategies are fulfilled.[1] The management is obliged to inform the consultation committee of the immediate situation of the workplace and of any expected development as regards structure and employment, particularly when structural changes occur and in situations where employment is threatened. Planned and expected initiatives must be included in this context.

The consultation committee must be involved before the management makes a final decision to implement a procedure to announce that the dismissal of staff due to institutional circumstances is being considered.

It is important that procedures of dismissal are organised very carefully, and that the largest possible effort is made to prevent dismissals and/or to assist employees who are expected to be affected. Dismissal is a serious issue, and the handling of this situation should be based on in-depth cooperation. It is therefore essential to involve the relevant consultation committee to ensure that a good process is established and all views and ideas are included in the deliberations.

The consultation committee must discuss the principles, general circumstances and structures involved in the event of staff reductions. However, individual case processing will not take place in the consultation committee. In isolated instances of the discontinuation of funding resulting in the dismissal of a single employee, it is recommended that the chairmanship of the consultation committee decides whether the case should be discussed in the consultation committee.

In the event of intended dismissals due to institutional circumstances, the management must prepare a discussion paper which will form the basis of deliberations by the consultation committee. The paper must contain the management’s basis for decision, their considerations regarding possible preventive measures and, if relevant, their suggested selection criteria for dismissal. The paper may also contain possible supportive measures for employees affected by the situation.

In determining the process, the question regarding confidentiality in its phases must be considered, cf. the rules of procedure of the Main Joint Consultation Committee, section 12.

3.1.1 Preventive measures

In the event of possible staff reductions due to institutional circumstances, preventive measures must be discussed in the consultation committee. Before this takes place, the management must consider possible measures to prevent staff reductions. Examples:

  • A general or partial recruitment freeze
  • Voluntary severance or gradual withdrawal, cf. regulations applying to state institutions
  • Offer of leave of absence without pay
  • Reduction in working hours
  • Non-extension of/non-reemployment in temporary positions
  • Other employment/redeployment within the University
  • Competence development for the purpose of internal redeployment within the University

Any plans for redeployment of staff in conjunction with preventive measures will be discussed in advance in the local consultation committee and, if preventive measures cut across departments/units, also in the faculty consultation committee. Discussions should include any unequal workloads among the areas in question. It should take place at an overall level and should not concern named individuals.

3.1.2 Principles for the recommendation of employees for dismissal

If, in spite of preventive measures taken, the management is expecting that dismissal will be necessary, the principles for the selection of employees for dismissal must be presented to the consultation committee for discussion.

When determining these principles, the manager will consider what will be the best way to ensure that all the tasks of the unit are solved in the future. The general fairness requirement in the event of dismissals will be followed in this connection. [2]

3.2. When should the consultation committee be involved?

As mentioned earlier, it is apparent from the State's Cooperation Agreement that the management is generally obliged to inform the consultation committee about the immediate situation and of expected developments as regards structure and employment situation [3]. Information on decisions that may lead to substantial changes in work organisation and staff employment conditions must be provided early enough for careful discussion in the consultation committee to be possible, ensuring that views and suggestions expressed by the employees may be included in the basis for the management’s final decision. If several levels in the consultation organisation are to be involved, it is important that the management ensures that the process is organised in such a way that there is sufficient time to include all relevant committee levels before the corresponding management levels make their decisions. The formal requirements for timely involvement are stipulated in standard rules of procedure adopted by the Main Joint Consultation Committee.[4]

3.3 Which consultation committee should be involved?

The information must be given, and the discussion must take place at the correct level in the consultation organisation.

As a point of departure, the principle of subsidiarity applies in the case of staff adaptations based on defined local conditions; therefore the matter is initially dealt with by the consultation committee at the level of personnel management responsibilities, provided that a consultation committee exists at this level.[5] Information and discussion initially take place between the management in charge of financial and personnel management (typically the chair of the local consultation committee) and local consultation committee representatives for the staff groups affected.[6] In cases where the decision-making power on final dismissal is at a higher level in the university's organisation (typically VIP staff), management and at least the deputy chair at this level must take a position on whether to involve the higher-level consultation committee (typically the faculty consultation committee). The management is responsible for timely information and consultation between consultation committee levels. [7]

In case of general budgetary cutbacks and/or structural changes at university or main area level, resulting in staff adaptions, the situation should initially be dealt with at Main Joint Consultation Committee or faculty consultation committee level. When information on the consequences at the local level (departments/units) has been made available, the case must be referred to the relevant local consultation committee for processing according to a specified plan.

Moreover, the Main Joint Consultation Committee will receive information from the Rector in case of expected substantial staff reductions in one or a number of areas at the University. This information will be given in general briefings to the Main Joint Consultation Committee concerning institutional circumstances or under a specific item in the agenda of a meeting. In certain urgent situations, information from the Rector may be given only to the deputy chair of the Main Joint Consultation Committee, who may then request that the information is given at an extraordinary Main Joint Consultation Committee meeting, and that further deliberation should take place.

4. Information to staff members

When deliberations have taken place in the relevant consultation committee and the manager has decided which employees should be recommended for dismissal, a number of tasks fall to the manager, such as informing the affected employees directly and also their colleagues. The manager must contact affected employees directly, inviting them for a meeting where the manager will present the affected employees with a letter of intent to dismiss. The manager must also inform all employees of the unit that the affected employees have received this information. In order to ensure general openness about dismissals due to institutional circumstances, the manager should also, at a suitable point in time, inform all employees in more detail about these circumstances.

5. Involvement of trade union representative/trade union organisation

In cases concerning compulsory redundancy dismissals due to institutional circumstances, the manager must encourage the employee as early in the process as possible to seek the assistance of their trade union representative, or their trade union organisation in case no union representative has been elected at the workplace. Moreover, the manager is particularly obliged to inform the trade union representative of the forthcoming dismissal. In practice, this means that the union representative will receive information from the manager about the intent to dismiss before this information is given to the employee. The information must be treated with confidentiality until the employee has also received it. The time gap between the information of the union representative and the employee should be as short as possible. The employee is also entitled to seek other assistance.

6. Supportive measures for employees who are dismissed/recommended for dismissal

On the basis of the University’s staff policy, the individual main area establishes its own supportive measures to be taken in case of dismissal due to institutional circumstances.

7. Special groups

7.1 Dismissal of civil servants

To the extent that the management might wish to dismiss a member of staff employed on civil service terms, special rules apply in case of compulsory redundancy dismissal. The decision to dismiss a civil servant is made by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, following the recommendation of the HR Department. The HR Department must be contacted for advice in specific cases.

7.2 Dismissal of trade union representatives and other employees holding positions of trust

Special procedures and terms of notice apply to the dismissal of trade union representatives. [8] Dismissal of union representatives or other employees holding positions of trust is only possible if compelling reasons exist to do so. The burden of proof that compelling reasons exist for the dismissal of staff member holding a position of trust rests with AAU. This special protection applies to (joint) union representatives, substitute (joint) union representatives, occupational health and safety representatives, consultation committee members (employee representatives), substitute employee representatives and employee members of the Aalborg University Board. The HR Department must be contacted for advice in specific cases.

8. Entitlement to invitation to interviews for advertised positions

Employees who are dismissed as a result of staff reductions due to institutional circumstances are entitled to be invited for interviews for positions advertised within the main area for which the employees in question are deemed to be formally qualified.

9. Validity and termination

The guidelines were adopted and signed 12 August 2013 on the basis of a discussion at the HSU meeting of 6 March 2013. (The last section of 3.1.1. and a new item 8 were added with effect from 1 May 2014, cf. Appendix 4.1. in the Main Joint Consultation Committee minutes of 2 April 2014).

Termination takes place as stipulated in Circular on the agreement regarding Cooperation and Joint Consultation Committees in State Sector Enterprises and Institutions, according to which either party may terminate the established guidelines at three months’ notice. Before termination, the Main Joint Consultation Committee must make an effort to adjust the previous guidelines in a manner which is satisfactory to the parties of the consultation committee.

The above guidelines replace the previous agreement 1.03 of 19 December 2007, Rammeaftale om retningslinjer for behandling af sager om afskedigelse, der er begrundet i generelle budgetreduktione [Framework agreement on guidelines for the treatment of cases of dismissal caused by general budgetary cutbacks], and agreement 1.11 of 19 December 2007, Omplacering og omskoling ved foranstående afskedigelser [Redeployment and retraining in case of forthcoming dismissals].

The agreement was adopted by the Main Joint Consultation Committee and signed by the Chair of the Main Joint Consultation Committee Rector Finn Kjærsdam and Deputy Chair Henriette Frahm on 12 August 2013.

[1] Cooperation Agreement, Circular on the Agreement regarding Cooperation and Joint Consultation Committees in the State, section 1. 

[2] Guidelines on dismissal for the universities, 2007

[3] Cooperation Agreement, Circular on the Agreement regarding Cooperation and Joint Consultation Committees in the State, 2011, section 3, subsection 2.

[4] Rules of procedure for AAU Consultation Committees – agreement 2.01 of 18 February 2010

[5] Reference is made to the Rector’s scheme of delegation in force at the time in question.

[6] Cooperation Agreement, Circular on the Agreement regarding Cooperation and Joint Consultation Committees in the State, 2011, section 3, subsection 3.

[7] Cooperation Agreement, Circular on the Agreement regarding Cooperation and Joint Consultation Committees in the State, 2011, section 3, subsection 3. 

[8] Circular on trade union representatives in the State etc. of 30 September 2008

 

Origin, background and history

Agreement 1.26 of 6 August 2013

Contact and responsibility

If you have any questions on the above, please contact Camilla Vinther Sørensen or Camilla Skjødt Jakobsen.

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