Did P&O Ferries Treat their Employees Fairly?

This weeks actions by P&O ferries has made headlines across HR Forums since the unbelievable footage of Seafarers being escorted from their ships earlier this week. Protests are breaking out at the busy ports of Hull and Dover, with the action of the British Shipping Company being seen as “Inhumane”, not only by the employees affected, but by the majority of people seeing the case unfold on the news.

Although it is certainly understandable that the world of travel has been one of the highest impacted industries during the Pandemic, the records showing P&O Ferries received “almost £15m in government grants during 2020, some of which used to fund staff furlough payments”. We are now in a place where the majority felt the world is returning to normal, and the folding of large companies is behind us, however, this is sadly not the case.

Any situation where redundancy is needed will always be emotive – therefore it is vital that a redundancy situation is treated with care, empathy and above all else fair process.
Although stress is high at the moment; post pandemic recovery, mixed with unprecedented energy costs, rises in cost of living and the Ukrainian War, we have learnt from large, household named companies such as Thomas Cook, there is a way to treat people correctly, even when redundancy is unfortunately underway.

So, how do we do this? How do we ensure people are treated fairly, even where there is no other option than redundancy?

1. Ensure the Redundancy is genuine!
For redundancy to be genuine, an employer or business must be able to demonstrate that the employee’s job will no longer exist and therefore the position is redundant, essentially, this is where the business might.
• Change what it does or how it works.
• Completes business in a different way, for example to use of machinery or technology.
• Changes location or is closing.

2. Consult!
Although it is understandable businesses can close overnight it is vital, we ensure that communication is present. Although P&O ferries went someway to communicate with staff – albeit through alleged pre-recorded videos – consideration should be made to ensure the communication is appropriate, transparent and above all else, clear. For these staff, hearing the message that you no longer have a job because you are being replaced with an agency must have been not only hurtful, but certainly out of the blue. Regardless of the reason, the Practice of ‘sacking on the spot’ is unethical, and all employees, regardless of tenure should be afforded the right to understand why the decision has been made.
Even from a business perspective, failing to follow a process is reckless and an open door to successful claims of breaches in employment rights, contract, and best practice guidance.

3. Remember the Person
Now, more than ever, people are talking about their Mental Health. As such, the focus on mental ill health and the impacts of stress are easily available for all, with employers having a key responsibility for an employee’s mental wellbeing. It would be very easy in the case of P&O to believe that the actions taken by the company considerably harmed the mental wellbeing off their staff – mainly because of the way this looks to those watching from the outside.
It is vital for employers who are initiating redundancy processes to consider the effect their behavior has on their staff. Not only this, as the company will still exist, albeit with agency staff at the helm, it is quite possible their approach has significantly damaged the reputation of a once proud company.

Should you require advice then please call our team on 01925 552333.

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