Mass Redundancies at P&O Ferries –  Anything but Plain Sailing!

Navigating redundancies in a time sensitive and high pressure situation is never easy, but  P&O Ferries’ decision to make 800 employees redundant over Zoom with no warning or consultation has seen them facing a storm of criticism. It’s been reported that the company had been making major losses year on year and the redundant employees are to be replaced by cheaper agency workers.

P&O’s treatment of its employees has led to outrage and threats of legal action from trade unions. Whilst most employers wouldn’t contemplate treating employees in such a way, P&O’s actions shine a spotlight on the ‘human aspect’ of redundancy which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Here’s three things to think about if you are a manager handling a redundancy process.


It can be an emotional time

A redundancy situation is often a stressful and difficult time for employees and managers who are involved. This can lead to employees becoming upset in the workplace or acting out of character. For managers who are feeling the pressure themselves this can be frustrating and harder than usual to deal with. But it doesn’t need to be, here’s two tips that may help:

  • Have a conversation: If you are worried about an employee or their behaviour talk to them. Whilst it sounds obvious, you would be surprised how often managers don’t feel confident in making an approach. Starting a conversation can help you to understand what’s going on with the employee, how you can support them and whether any other action may be needed.
  • Keep things in perspective: We are sometimes asked if an employee should be suspended whilst a redundancy consultation is ongoing as managers have general fears over employees causing trouble in the business. It’s important to keep things in perspective, whilst employees may be upset about the position they find themselves in, most issues can be handled in the workplace – suspension is not usually necessary or appropriate. In some cases, suspending an employee could lead to them arguing that the redundancy process was predetermined. If you have particular concerns about your situation, please contact us to discuss your case.


Be mindful of how you treat employees during the redundancy consultation process

A key part of a fair redundancy process is consultation with employees. Whilst this will involve a number of things needing to be discussed, how you approach the meetings is important too, after all consultation needs to be “meaningful”. Remember to be calm, patient and to approach the matter with an open mind. This, in part, is an employee’s opportunity to put their views, suggestions and questions forward and you will need to give these serious consideration and respond to them reasonably. The possibility of losing their job will be a major life event for many employees and how the process is handled and their experience of it could negatively impact them for some time to come.


Redundancy ‘survivors’ may need your support

Employees who have been part of a redundancy process and kept their jobs may nevertheless be affected by what they have been through. There are steps that can be taken to help them and in turn, ensure your business is able to move forward. You can find out more by reading our blog Supporting Employees Who Have Survived Redundancy


Redundancy Recap

If the P&O ferries situation has got you thinking about how to carry out a fair redundancy check out some of our earlier blogs and helpful guidance on this topic (spoiler alert – it won’t usually be fair to make employees redundant on the spot or to immediately replace them….)

If you would like further information on redundancy or any other employment law matter, please contact us as we’d love to hear from you. Remember, it’s important to seek specific advice on the facts of your case before taking action to help keep your business safe.


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