Fire and Rehire – A death knell?

14th March 2023

I can’t believe that it is a year on from the P & O sackings which caused such consternation in the press at the time but actually resulted in no real action being taken by the Government.  It is a useful reminder that despite us being in an unprecedented time of industrial action at the moment, it is not only the seafarers who are vulnerable to the possibility of fire and rehire.  You may be aware that there is currently a consultation paper on this very issue which is finishing on 18 April with the intention of introducing a Code of Practice which might have an impact on compensation awarded in the tribunals.

However, I am also sympathetic to the employers who are facing the challenges of trying to encourage their workforce back to their workplaces, not turning the same level of profit pre COVID and having to deal with a very different landscape/attitude to work.  Of course this has an impact on businesses being able to offer the same level of remuneration/commission/bonuses as they were before whilst also wanting to retain valuable staff.  Inevitably this is likely to lead to the prospect of having to make decisions on varying terms and conditions with the possibility that if a business decision (however sound) is not accepted, fire and rehire (not on the P & O scale or even following reasonable consultation) might be necessary.

I do endorse the fact that it is sensible to provide guidance to employers via a Code and also with ACAS Guidance when it is necessary to terminate and re-engage but I would stop short of some of the calls for legislation in this area – this is a step too far in my view and interferes with most decent businesses trying to find a solution for their diligent and generally loyal workforce.  The P & O situation was an extreme but even that was as a result of being put under too much pressure from the unions and workforce to do an economic deal that was not viable.  Both sides of the fence need to be sensible in these circumstances and to retain jobs need to cooperate and consult meaningfully to reach a solution.

Fire and rehire must be banned a year after the P&O Ferries sackings (