Tan Dhesi MP for Slough
Devastatingly, throughout the pandemic, our local community has been acutely affected by job losses and the financial impact of Covid-19. Yet, unscrupulous companies have been taking advantage and using fire and rehire tactics.
Dismiss and re-engage, or fire and rehire, tactics is the process by which an employer dismisses an employee, and then offers to re-employ them on reduced terms and conditions.
As I explained during a recent Parliamentary debate on this important issue, this is not a new phenomenon, but it has gained prominence during the Coronavirus pandemic, with companies such as BA and Centrica using the circumstances of the pandemic to justify this abhorrent practice.
Many constituents rely on the aviation industry for work, so on top of the jobs reduction in this sector, many have had to face losing pension benefits, annual leave entitlements, and pay. However, this isn’t the only affected sector.
Shockingly, nearly a fifth of 18-24-year-olds say their employer has tried to rehire them on inferior terms during the pandemic, and twice as many Black and Asian ethnic minority workers (15%) have been faced with fire and rehire than white workers (8%). This whole situation is completely unacceptable.
Even prior to this pandemic, UK employment law was inadequate. The past year has simply strengthened the case for better employee rights and protections. From the lack of enforcement action to keep workplaces safe during the coronavirus, to the widespread insecurity and lack of entitlement to statutory sick pay, the state of UK employment rights has exacerbated the public health and economic impacts of Covid.
It was back in 2019 that the Tory Government promised an Employment Bill “to protect and enhance workers’ rights”, but since then, nothing has changed. We need an Employment Bill from this Government that guarantees the basic rights to all workers, including those in the gig economy and facing immoral fire and rehire practices.
Whilst the work of trade unions, such as Unite, Unison, and GMB, has been invaluable in advising employees and protecting jobs, the law must be strengthened to better protect employees and to ensure that fire and rehire are banned.
Unless urgent action is taken to protect the economy and workers’ rights, there will be a race to the bottom.