Everything that is wrong with P&O

800 redundancies announced from P&O

You can’t open a newspaper today (and rightly so) without seeing the absolute  mess that P&O have made of their so-called redundancy process in the UK.


You know your team has got it wrong when comments are coming out of Number 10 Downing Street about your day at work and Nicola Sturgeon has rung to give you a telling off. #worstdayever


Frankly, and I mean this with as much professionalism as possible where I rarely criticise other professionals, an A-Level law student could have done better. No, really, a quick ‘Google’ of ‘how to  make 800 people redundant immediately’ would have provided an inkling to the P&O team of what was to come.


Now whilst the tone of this may seem light-hearted, it’s not, there are some serious messages in here. The disgraceful treatment of the P&O staff is abhorrent, and it was totally avoidable. Given the public reaction it’s a surprise in this day and age that we haven’t had an announcement from P&O: ‘sorry guys we were hacked, no idea where that message from’. Not that anyone ever believes those messages, just FYI.


So, here is what we know so far:


  • 800 out of 2,200 staff members have been dismissed- we do not know the status of those contracts, whether they have been employed for more than 2 years and have protection from unfair dismissal or whether they are zero hours contracts
  • Only the UK has been targeted, not the French staff (who have the right to issue injunctions by the way via their unions/work councils in such circumstances, and the minimum length of service for severance is 8 months, not 2 years like the UK)
  • The Secretary of State for Business has announced no notification had been made in line with collective consultation rules- an immediate breach of the requirements when dismissing more than 20 people in a 90 day period
  • Notice of redundancy was given on a video message, not in writing
  • Trade Unions are stating they were not consulted with, and therefore there has been a breach of the requirement to consult and elect employee representatives. This would likely implicate that there has been no consultation or information given at all.
  • Dismissal was immediate and P&O are therefore relying on paying in lieu of notice


Clearly they are not paying their legal team or PR team enough. This has disaster written all over it. The breaches are numerous and severe. Even if all 800 staff have under 2 years employment and/or are zero hours workers, there are significant risks to P&O in relation to status arguments and a significant miscalculation regarding the need to undertake a process even where staff have less than 2 years employment.


It is serious stuff, a Company can be prosecuted for failing to notify, it is a criminal offence and the fine is unlimited.


There must have been a work experience student in the room when the planning was done though, as on the worst pre recorded video call of 2022 the staff were offered settlement agreements. ‘Of course! Hurrah! Our get out of jail free card’ exclaimed the P&O bosses when the script was authorised….


The settlement agreements were offered at the same time as the staff were told that they were made redundant. They already knew their employment was ending that very day, and P&O were banking on all the staff taking up the offer of the settlement agreement without any notification of the figures or time to consult a solicitor in advance of the termination being implemented.


This was a terrible decision, not only was the settlement offered on an ‘on the record’ call and not without prejudice, but it was done at the same time as the hammer blow, that their employment was ending and they were being replaced by external agency staff. In the absence of any figures or other motivating factors being visible, employees were enraged. Rightly so.


It resulted in staff refusing to leave their ships and a worldwide ‘big brother’ show of the police attempting entry, captains lifting up their gangplanks and if course the telling off from Nicola Sturgeon.


How on earth did they really think this would play out? It shows a total lack of employee engagement and management that has no idea how their workforce reacts, thinks or what motivates them. They have not been treated like human beings with independent thoughts and feelings.


On Twitter #irishferries is trending, as people remind the world that Irish Ferries did the same thing to 543 of their workers in 2005. In the Irish Ferries mass redundancy security guards were smuggled on board the shifts to ensure a ‘smooth transition’.  The Brexit blamers are also out in full force, declaring with full confidence that since we left the EU we have lost all our employment laws (we haven’t). You can probably hear the collective eye rolling by employment lawyers up and down the country.


I am sitting here trying to think how on earth they were advised:


‘It’s ok, no-one talks about Irish Ferries any more, it will be yesterday’s new in no time’– Wrong we are 17 years further on into the ‘social media’ revolution, this story will be around a while!

‘There is a war, no one will care’– Wrong, with a humanitarian crisis and concern over oil supplies and our Prime Minister meeting in the middle east this week, a mass redundancy by a Company owned by a Dubai based business will definitely get noticed.

‘They will all take settlement agreements and there won’t be a PR disaster’– see social media point above….


P&O now have a huge mess to clean up, and its going to cost them a fortune in fines, management time, stops on services and delays with ships being out of place. Cutting corners to ‘save costs’ has really done well for them hasn’t it? Its likely to cost them significantly more and their reputation is in tatters. The Trade Unions likely smell blood already, its going to be a bumpy road out of this for them.


P&O when you are up the creek without a paddle, drop an anchor. #HRANCHOR