Thank you for contacting me about "fire and rehire" tactics.
I am aware that there have been reports of several businesses and industry sectors considering making large numbers of staff redundant. I appreciate that many businesses have been significantly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, including those operating in the hospitality, leisure, entertainment, culture, travel, retail and transport sectors.
I sympathise with anyone who is facing redundancy during the pandemic. Redundancy is never an easy process to go through, and it is important that those who have been made redundant are aware of their rights.
I know that Ministers are committed to boosting job creation. The 'Plan for Jobs' announced during the Summer Economic Update makes up to £30 billion available with a clear goal to create, protect, and support jobs, and to spur the UK's recovery following Covid-19. The plan includes three main points: supporting people to find the jobs that are out there, creating new jobs through investing in our infrastructure and housing, and protecting jobs by revitalising the hard-hit sectors upon which many jobs depend.
In the previous parliamentary session, Gavin Newlands MP introduce a Private Members' Bill which sought to prevent businesses from adopting "fire and rehire" tactics. The Bill failed to complete its passage. Although I appreciate your concerns, I did not support the Bill, as ultimately terms and conditions of employment are a matter for employers and employees. Companies should behave responsibly, and employers threatening to fire and rehire as a negotiating tactic is completely unacceptable, but there is already recourse for those who feel they have been treated unfairly. If an employee feels they have been dismissed unfairly, they should first check their rights (https://www.gov.uk/redundancy-your-rights) before they consider taking their case to an employment tribunal.
While employers and employees must be given the flexibility to arrange the terms and conditions of employment, I expect all employers to treat their workers fairly and in the spirit of partnership and I strongly condemn the use of ‘fire and rehire’ as a negotiating tactic.
During this difficult time, it is only right that employers should act responsibly and therefore only use the Job Retention Scheme to protect jobs. I understand that the Government is urging employers not to use the Job Retention Scheme irresponsibly and thereby to make someone redundant on less favourable terms than they would otherwise have received.
To better understand the issues in relation to fire and rehire, the Government is working with Acas. As part of this, there have been a number of roundtables and discussions with businesses, employee representatives and other bodies to discuss the issues in more detail. This helped to build an evidence base which Acas has presented to the Government.
In my role as a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, the Committee has been taking evidence on the impact of coronavirus on businesses and their workers and has taken evidence from Centrica and the GMB Union on the dispute with regard to Centrica's staff re-organisation - https://committees.parliament.uk/event/3613/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/ and https://www.richardfuller.co.uk/news/business-and-energy-select-committee-takes-evidence-centricas-job-loss-plans . I will be closely monitoring the situation as the Committee continues its work in this area and looks at whether to make recommendations to the Government ahead of the expected new Employment Bill.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.