Shock of the P&O Ferries redundancies | Davis Blank Furniss

Redundancy situations are never a pleasant experience for employers and least for employees.  However, treating employees in a redundancy situation with dignity and consideration goes a long way in what is a very difficult situation to be in.

Redundancy announcement

Based on the limited information we have in respect of the P&O Ferries shock announcement yesterday, there appears to have been serious failings in basic good practice which could also amount to serious breaches of employment legislation in the UK. UK employment law prescribes specific procedures which should be followed and implemented in these instances.

Starting from the outset, where there are 100 or more potential redundancies in one establishment, an employer is required to notify the Business Secretary at least 45 days in advance of any dismissals taking place.  The 45 days is stipulated by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 during which time employers are supposed to undertake meaningful consultation with employee representatives with a view to reducing the number of redundancies or considering alternative options. Only once consultation has taken place and the 45 days has expired, can an employer then move to making individuals redundant.

It is unlikely that the P&O employees will have any type of discrimination claim unless the manner in which they were selected for redundancy was by reason of a protected characteristic such as for example their sex or race. However, it is likely that the employees will have a claim for unfair dismissal depending on their length of service.

Employers do, in certain circumstances, curtail the procedure but then provide employees with enhanced redundancy packages under Settlement Agreements. It is not clear if that is the case with the P&O employees.

employment law two people shaking hands

Others cases

There are also cases where employers terminate contracts and then try to re-engage employees on new contracts with new terms and conditions which are less favourable.  However, it is not yet clear if that is the intention of P&O Ferries.

This incident will certainly leave employees feeling vulnerable and no doubt for the employees involved, apart from the shock, a very anxious time which could have been  lightened by a different approach in the manner in which P&O Ferries have dealt with the job cuts.

There is no doubt that unions will take every step necessary to protect the employees affected, and P&O Ferries may find that this was a far more costly exercise than they anticipated.

Shiva Shadi is Head of Employment at Davis Blank Furniss. Please click here for her profile and contact details.

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