Thank you to those who have contacted me about possible redundancies at Centrica.
I am aware that there have been reports of several businesses and industry sectors, such as the travel and aviation sector, considering making thousands of staff redundant. I appreciate that many businesses have been significantly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, including those operating in the hospitality, leisure, entertainment, culture, travel, retail and transport sectors. I sympathise with anyone who is facing redundancy during the pandemic. Redundancy is never an easy process to go through, and it is important that those who have been made redundant are aware of their rights.
I am aware of a Private Members’ Bill which has been introduced by Gavin Newlands MP which seeks to prevent businesses from adopting “fire and rehire” tactics. The Second Reading of the Bill is scheduled for 29 January 2021. Although I appreciate your strength of feeling, I do not support the Bill, as ultimately terms and conditions of employment are a matter for employers and employees. Companies should behave responsibly but there is already recourse for those who feel they have been treated unfairly. If an employee feels they have been dismissed unfairly, they should first check their rights (https://www.gov.uk/redundancy-your-rights) before they consider taking their case to an employment tribunal.
I want to reassure you that I have nonetheless spoken to Ministerial colleagues to make sure they are aware of the concerns of employees. During this difficult time, it is only right that employers should act responsibly and therefore only use the Job Retention Scheme to protect jobs. I understand that the Government is urging employers not to use the Job Retention Scheme irresponsibly and thereby to make someone redundant on less favourable terms than they would otherwise have received.
I welcome that, to better understand the issues in relation to fire and rehire, the Government is working with ACAS, and bringing together a number of roundtables with businesses, employee representatives and other bodies to discuss the issues in more detail. It is important that the Government continues to stand behind workers and to stop unscrupulous practices where they occur.
In addition, my Ministerial colleagues have reassured me that they continue to engage with businesses and stakeholders to identify what support is available during this pandemic. This has ensured the Government is kept fully aware of the latest developments with all firms and to understand where additional policy measures could address specific industry issues.