P&O Ferries – Fire and No Re-Hire
In GB, the Insolvency Service confirmed in late August 2022, that there will be no criminal action against P&O Ferries in respect of the mass redundancies and the company’s failure to comply with the statutory requirement to provide advance notification of the redundancies to the Insolvency Services, (which is commonly referred to as submitting HR1), that took place on 17 March 2022. A failure to notify is a criminal offence that may result in prosecution and a fine, on summary conviction, for the company and/or officer of the company.
This arose over the publicised sacking of approximately 800 P&O Ferries staff by pre-recorded message without the Company complying with this advance notification requirement. The Company’s Chief Executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, appeared before a joint hearing of the Transport and Business Committees to answer questions. Subsequent reports confirmed that the vast majority of those dismissed (perhaps understandably) had accepted settlements.
In Northern Ireland it was reported that between 60-70 employees were sacked in the same way. Here the same requirements apply but the notification is to the Department of the Economy. On 2 September 2022, Gordon Lyons, Northern Ireland Economy Minister announced that he had submitted a file to Public Prosecutions to consider a case against P&O.
It will be interesting to see if Northern Ireland Public Prosecutions finds there is realistic prospect of a conviction.