Labour Research November 2021

Law Matters

Tories ensure fire and rehire tactics remain

Tory MPs have blocked a new law that sought to prevent employers using “fire and rehire” tactics to force employees to accept worse terms and conditions in order to save their jobs.

These tactics have become prominent during the pandemic (see Labour Research, January 2021, pages 9-11) and led to widespread disputes including those at British Gas and Asda earlier this year.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner brought the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill as a Private Members’ Bill, but it was “talked out” at its second reading in the House of Commons on 22 October.

The government voted against a “closure motion” that would have ensured a vote on the Bill, then “talked it out” to prevent it going ahead.

The proposed new legislation would have made it unlawful to vary contracts without the agreement of the employee or, in larger employers, without consulting trade unions or other reps. It would also have made it automatically unfair to dismiss an employee because they failed to agree to worse terms and conditions. This would have allowed employees to agree changes in the event that there was a real threat to their continued employment and cutting wages was the only way to save jobs.

The Bill was backed by the Labour Party and trade unions, who have attacked the practice as a way of driving down terms and conditions.