The Law in 4: “Wildly overstaffed? Let’s right-size”

“It’s not you, it’s me”.  For years people have given different labels for what they really mean and in the press recently we have read a new term. Right-sizing.  What does that mean? Essentially it’s modern speak for redundancies of course, because if you dig below the label, it still means cuts to the workforce. Does this really put a positive spin on it? Maybe for the company and those still left with jobs, but in law, the reason for leaving is still redundancy. In a Times article, it said something that was quite harsh, but might be true. If it is no longer downsizing, but rightsizing, does that mean the company was wrong to the hire the staff it is cutting in the first place. Ooh, that would hurt.

Whatever the label though, we are looking at a trend of companies making redundancies, and in this economy, that is likely to continue.

On the flip side…
Recent findings for think tanks CEF (Centre for European Reform) and UK in a changing Europe reported that Brexit has highlighted a shortfall of 330,000 workers, affecting 6 key sectors: transport, warehousing, wholesale, retail, hospitality and food. This comes off the back of calls for our immigration system to be changed to help EU workers come back to the UK. Certainly, the shift in our immigration system has meant that EU workers need visas to come to the UK, whereas before they just hopped on a plane or train. Aside from the fact that the system is difficult to navigate for EU workers who work in global roles, covering several different countries (doing work that needs a visa in the UK, but where they might also be based in their home country) it also does nothing to assist with this shortfall. Many of the unfilled roles simply don’t meet the eligibility requirements. The governor of the Bank of England commented that this shortfall could pose major risks to inflation through wage growth because demand outstrips supply.

Fall-out from the P&O firings
A new code has been published on the practice of firing and rehiring, following the shocking behaviour of P&O last year when it fired ferry workers without following any kind of process. This is the practice of terminating contracts of employment and then offering rehiring on less favourable terms.  Apparently the code is meant to make it crystal clear that a threat of dismissal should not be used to pressurise employees into acceptance. The proposals include:

  • There must be consultation with all employees, represented or not.
  • The employer has to constantly re-consider and review its business strategy and plans, throughout the consultation process.
  • Employers need to consider what changes are actually needed, in light of the business reasons it seeks to rely on. For example, are there existing terms that could be relied on instead, and the example given is reliance on a mobility clause.
  • Greater openness with sharing of business information behind the proposals and for this to be done as early as possible.
  • There must be true consultation; not just the following of a process in order to tick boxes.
  • If agreement cannot be reached, employers must re-examine their plans in light of feedback. For example, do all changes have to be brought in at the same time or could they be introduced gradually?

Throughout the code, there is the reminder that other consultation processes should also be followed.

Failure to follow the code creates no additional legal obligations, but the tribunal will have the power to uplift any compensation award by up to 25%, as it can in relation to following other codes of practice.

Is this really any different to what we have now? Frankly, we can’t see much in the way of changes. Most of this is in place as good practice anyway, so where are the “teeth” to the Code?

The consultation period ends on 18 April 2023.

Are dating apps the new jobsite?
Here’s a cheerful story to end our Law in 4. One lucky chap looking for love landed a job when he connected with a recruiter on one of the well-known dating sites. The conversation turned to what each of them did for a living and as luck would have it, his skills might be just what the recruiter’s company was looking for.

What we wanted to know was whether he was lucky twice – did he got the job and the girl?! We didn’t find out.