P&O say go

22 March 2022

Following on from the recent news that P&O Ferries have dismissed 800 staff, Natasha Lawrence, Legal Advisor in our Employment team looks at the announcement and explores whether the mass redundancies are in breach of UK employment law.

We have recently seen the controversial and somewhat shocking decision of P&O ferries to dismiss 800 staff. The announcement was made without any form of notice and using a pre-recorded video in which staff were informed that their contracts would be terminated with immediate effect on the grounds of redundancy.

P&O indicated that they would ‘fire and rehire’ staff, reengaging them on less favourable terms and conditions which has sparked political debate about the lawfulness of such policies. P&O have also outlined their intention to replace the employees with agency workers to reduce labour costs, another contentious move that has raised questions about the lawfulness of P&O’s decision making.

Breaches of UK Employment Law

At present there are questions as to whether those dismissed are deemed to be ‘Seafarers’ and if so, it is anticipated that they will be caught by the Maritime Labour Convention as opposed to UK employment law. If it is established that those dismissed are protected by UK employment law then their actions would be deemed to be unlawful, and P&O are going to have to spend significant financial costs in defending Employment Tribunal claims.

The volume of redundancies being made would trigger a collective redundancy process and as a result P&O have failed in several of their obligations when making collective redundancies;

  • They have failed to comply with the minimum notice period of 45 days;
  • They have failed to undertake any meaningful consultations with staff – ordinarily it should be a two way process whereby employees can ask questions, propose alternatives and consider their options; and
  • As there were over 100 employees being made redundant P&O have a duty to notify the secretary of state 45 days before terminating staff contracts which it is currently in dispute as to whether this point was complied with or not.

In any event, it is apparent that P&O employees have suffered appalling and degrading treatment as a result of the actions of their employer. Irrespective of whether the employees are protected by UK employment law, a corporate organisation with such resources should not be devoid of its moral obligations to its employees and should not be allowed to treat them as disposable labour.

It is without question that P&O should be held accountable to avoid any unwanted precedents being set that are not aligned with what UK employment law sets out to achieve in the form of protecting workers rights.

Get in touch

If you have any concerns about your obligations when carrying out collective redundancies, or have any other employment related questions, please get in touch on 01276 239 000 or email enquiries@redkitelaw.co.uk

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.