A recent survey conducted by the TUC has found that controversial ‘fire and rehire’ tactics have become widespread during the pandemic, with employers increasingly using the technique to force employees on to less beneficial contracts.
The survey by the TUC of 2,231 workers across England and Wales found that since the start of the first lockdown in March, almost one in 10 (9 per cent) had been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions or face the sack, with younger and black and ethnic minority workers most affected by the practice.
Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of 18 to 24-year-olds said their employer had tried to rehire them on inferior terms during the pandemic, while nearly twice the proportion of ethnic minority workers were subjected to fire and rehire tactics compared to their white counterparts (15 and 8 per cent respectively).
Working-class employees were also nearly twice as likely than those from higher socioeconomic groups to have been told to reapply for their jobs under worse terms and conditions (12 and 7 per cent respectively).
In all, nearly a quarter of workers polled (24 per cent) experienced a downgrading of their terms during the crisis – including through reduced pay or changes to their hours.
Whilst employers are under pressure to trade and profit in more difficult circumstances, their options for these kinds of changes are limited. Any change to an employee’s terms of employment can only be made with their consent unless the conversation can be started and the changes made as part of a redundancy programme. If employers are considering redundancies then they must look for ways to avoid redundancies and one way is often to ask all staff to take a pay cut so that no-one has to leave.
Outside of these parameters such changes are hard to implement and the employer will also need to think about the effect on staff morale.