Fire and rehire tactics surge during COVID-19

Fire and rehire tactics are becoming more widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned.

Its new poll found that since the first national lockdown in March 2020, nearly one in ten (9%) workers have been told to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions, or else they’d be let go.

HR teams need to be wary of the tactic, as it could lead to employment tribunals and workers strikes.

The TUC said that the situation is worse for BME and young workers, as well as those from working class backgrounds.

Nearly a fifth of (18%) of 18 to 24-year-olds said that their employer has tried to rehire them on inferior terms during the pandemic.

Working class people (12%) are reportedly nearly twice as likely than those from higher socio-economic groups (7%) to have been told to reapply for their jobs under worse terms and conditions.

And BME workers (15%) have been faced with “fire and rehire” at nearly twice the rate of white workers (8%).

In September last year, the Labour party called for a ban on the tactic as it feared it would be a unintended outcome of the furlough scheme.

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

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

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that fire and rehire tactics have no place in modern Britain.

“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,” she said.

The polling also found that nearly a quarter (24%) of workers in Britain have experienced a downgrading of their terms during COVID-19, which included reduced pay and changes to their hours.

One in three (34%) young workers (18-24 year-olds) said their terms at work have deteriorated since March.

O’Grady said that this contradicts the prime minister's promise to level up the workforce in response to the pandemic.

She said: “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.”

The TUC’s poll was conducted between 19 and 29 November and 2,231 people responded to it.