Second Guiding Principle – Managing Vacancies

(Accepted with commentary by N.I. Executive – 17/01/08)


This Guiding Principle outlines the approaches to be applied to vacancy management including the involvement of trade unions and Staff Commissions.  There is a focus on avoiding redundancy.

Guiding Principle

The Public Service Commission recommends that, in order to minimise the risk of redundancies as a result of decisions arising from the Review of Public Administration, and recognising the need to keep open all possible means to redeploy staff, existing employers should, at the appropriate time, implement vacancy management schemes and avoid creating new posts.

Associated Recommendations

The Public Service Commission recommends that in consultation with trade unions and employers, the Executive should publish an updated list of public sector organisations deemed to be affected by the direct rule administration’s announcements and recent decisions taken by the Executive (the RPA Affected Group).

The Public Service Commission recommends that the Executive requires existing employers:

  • Through sponsoring Departments and the sectoral Staff Commissions, to develop and implement vacancy management schemes in consultation with appropriate trade unions and staff representatives.  The Commission recognises the operational difficulties which might be faced by employers in immediately implementing vacancy management schemes given that the implementation of RPA may proceed over a much longer timeframe than initially envisaged.  The Commission therefore recommends that employers consult with trade unions and other staff representatives on the timing of the introduction of the scheme so as to safeguard the interests of existing staff to the fullest possible extent, whilst balancing this with the business needs of the organisation.
  • In conjunction with relevant trade unions at local and other levels, to define and publicise, those services which will be subject to vacancy management schemes.
  • To consult with trade unions and other staff representatives on the application of the Scheme in respect of any particular posts.  The Schemes should provide that no new posts be created except where an existing employer can demonstrate an inescapable requirement for the post.  Examples of new posts which might fall into this category include those required to ensure service delivery, where new responsibilities or requirements are imposed by legislation or Executive action or in cases where there is exceptional stress or pressure of work on existing staff.
  • To identify staff who are at a clearly identified risk of compulsory redundancy and to advise staff whether they are, or are not, in the “at risk” group.  Should an individual then consider themselves to be “at risk” they should be entitled to a response from their employer clarifying the position.  Employers should consult on the designation of “at risk” staff with trade unions and staff representatives.
  • Should seek to fill a vacancy or new post in the following order of consideration:
  • By the use of an internal mechanism with the objective of dealing in the first instance with staff who have been identified as being “at risk”.  Examples of internal mechanisms are transfers, re-deployment, the offer of suitable alternative employment, temporary promotions, internal competition, delayed retirement etc.  Where staff accept temporary promotion, acting up or secondment etc there will be an underlying guarantee to the employee in respect of continuity of employment rights in their previous substantive post for the purposes of RPA implementation.
  • By targeting “at risk” staff in that sector as a whole.
  • By targeting “at risk” staff across all the sectors in the RPA Affected Group.
  • By way of open competition.

A “clearing house” mechanism may be used to enable employers to collaborate in filling vacancies or new posts across the sectors thereby ensuring “at risk” staff have an opportunity to apply for positions/vacancies as might arise.

  • To take into account employment law and equality considerations when considering the methods available for filling a vacancy or a new post and when determining the composition of the selection pool.
  • To fully document decisions on creating new posts of filling vacancies.
  • To ensure that appropriate training measures are in place throughout the RPA implementation process to support staff directly affected by this Guiding Principle and Associated Recommendations.
  • Through sponsoring Departments and the sectoral Staff Commissions, to introduce and apply monitoring and review arrangements in relation to policies on managing vacancies.  In keeping with the Public Service Commission’s recommendations in relation to effective communications, reports on how arrangements for managing vacancies effectively are working in practice should also be provided to staff and local trade unions and/or staff representatives on a regular basis.
  • To take all reasonable steps, both pre and post transfer, to manage or accommodate surplus staff thereby meeting or exceeding their statutory obligations.
Further Guidance/Information

There is a significant emphasis on avoiding compulsory redundancy in this Guiding Principle and the following links are recommended.

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