The actions of P&O last Thursday in summarily dismissing 800 people by video has excited a lot of comment virtually all of it unfavourable. It is never pleasant to lose your job and it is even more unpleasant when carried out in such a brutal insensitive manner.

It is unclear however whether their actions especially in respect of lack of collective consultation requirements. were unlawful. The men dismissed were largely British, the ships they worked on were not, they were flagged in Bermuda, the ship’s management company is based in Jersey. There is a separate section of the UK employment rights act which deals with employment of offshore staff which will be considered. It is likely as always, the main beneficiaries will be the lawyers

In the UK, collective consultation requirements kick in when making 20 or more employees redundant at an establishment. You must contact BEIS informing them of the proposed redundancies using a HR1 form, failure to so is a criminal offence! An establishment is defined as a separate shop, warehouse, factory , depot or facility not across the organisation as a whole. The requirement is for a 2-stage consultation. The employees must elect a representative group it could be an existing or new group who will meet with the employers to understand the situation and to look at:-
the reasons for redundancies
the numbers and categories of employees involved
the numbers of employees in each category
how the employer plans to select employees for redundancy
how the employer will carry out redundancies
how the employer will work out redundancy payments
It is also good practice after the staff representatives have reported back to the staff to carry out individual consultations with each affected staff member.

The government has set a timetable of a minimum consultation period of 30 days before redundandcy notices are issued for between 20 and 99 proposed redundancies and 45 days for proposed redundancies of 100 staff or more.

If the company does not comply and the tribunal confirms this non compliance the tribunal can issue a protective award which can be up to 90 days pay per affected employee. Given P&O have made 800 people redundant with no consultation the protected award if granted may end up rising to several millions