“Fire and rehire” tactics have become widespread during pandemic – warns TUC

  • New poll reveals that nearly 1 in 10 workers have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions or face the sack   
  • Almost a quarter say their working terms, such as pay or hours, have been downgraded since first lockdown in March  
  • TUC says government must deliver on promise to protect and enhance workers’ rights and not “water down” EU-derived protections  

The TUC has today (Monday) warned that the controversial practice of “fire and re-hire” has become widespread during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

A new poll published by the union body reveals that nearly 1 in 10 (9%) workers have been told to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions since the first lockdown in March.  

The picture is even bleaker for BME and young workers and working-class people:  

  • Nearly a fifth of (18%) of 18-24 year-olds say their employer has tried to re-hire them on inferior terms during the pandemic.  
  • Working-class people (12%) are nearly twice as likely than those from higher socio-economic groups (7%) to have been told to re-apply for their jobs under worse terms and conditions.  
  • BME workers (15%) have been faced with “fire and rehire” at nearly twice the rate of white workers (8%)  

The TUC says “fire and re-hire” tactics are being used across a range of industries.  

Members of the GMB union are currently taking strike action against British Gas after the company ordered staff to accept inferior contracts. 

And Unite are taking industrial action against British Airways over the airline’s decision to “fire and rehire” its cargo division’s workforce on inferior pay and conditions.  

Levelling down  

The polling also reveals that nearly a quarter (24%) of workers in Britain have experienced a downgrading of their terms during the crisis – including through reduced pay or changes to their hours.  

One in three (34%) young workers (18-24 year-olds) say their terms at work have deteriorated since March. And a nearly a third (30%) of low-paid workers (those earning up to £15,000) report the same.  

Around two-fifths (38%) of workers say they are worried about job security in the year ahead.  

Protecting and enhancing workers’ rights 

The government promised in 2019 that it would bring forward a new employment bill to improve people’s rights at work. But there has been no sign of the legislation.   

The TUC says that improving workers’ rights and pay is a key test of Boris Johnson’s much vaunted ‘levelling up agenda’.   

The union body says any move to water down EU-derived protections on safe working hours, rest-breaks would be a betrayal of that promise.  

A separate TUC poll published straight after the 2019 general election – revealed that nearly three-quarters (73%) of voters think the government must protect and enhance workplace rights previously guaranteed by the EU.. 

This call was supported by two-thirds (65%) of people who voted Conservative in 2019, and by 8 in 10 (79%) of those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives.  

TUC General Secretary  Frances O’Grady:

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect at work. Forcing people to re-apply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions is plain wrong.  

“Fire and re-hire tactics have no place in modern Britain and must be outlawed. 

“Boris Johnson promised to make the UK the best place in the world to work in. It’s high time he delivered on this promise. 

“That means fast-tracking his much-delayed employment bill. And it means abandoning any attempt to water down hard-won workers’ rights from the EU.”

Further background

- Polling info: BritainThinks conducted an online survey of 2,231 in England and Wales between 19th November – 29thNovember 2020. All respondents were either in work, on furlough, or recently made redundant. Survey data has been weighted to be representative of the working population in England and Wales by age, gender, socioeconomic grade, working hours and security of work in line with ONS Labour Force survey data.    

- Boris Johnson made an upgrade to the existing employment law one of his key campaign promises during the 2019 election, vowing that it would be “the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation that the government is bringing forward”. 

– Labour will force a vote in the House of Commons on Monday on protecting working time rights.

PAYadvice.UK 25/1/2021

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