MPs have blocked the ‘fire and rehire’ Bill that would have prevented companies from dismissing staff and re-engaging them on less favourable conditions and pay.
The Bill, put forward by Labour MP Barry Gardiner, would have stopped employers from using the practice unless employees were properly consulted first.
However, the Bill failed to get support by 188 votes to 251 after Conservative MPs were urged not to back it.
Introducing the Bill in Parliament today (22 October), Gardiner said it would not outright ban fire and rehire tactics as they might be necessary to prevent a company from collapsing, for example.
Gardiner told MPs: “It encourages both employers and workers to reach the best outcome and discourages bad employers from threatening fire and rehire, where there is not a legitimate threat to the business that demands it.”
However, business minister Paul Scully said that the government did not believe primary legislation was needed to stamp out the unscrupulous practice.
Fire and rehire
“The unambiguous message is that bully-boy tactics of fire and rehire, for use as a negotiating tactic, is absolutely inappropriate,” he said. “However, I do not believe that this bill as it stands – even if it’s amended, as I do not believe we need that primary legislation to achieve its ends – will actually have the effect.
“What we need to do is make sure that we can address these situations. We’ll legislate if we need to, but we’ll do it as a last resort, not as a first resort.”
The TUC described fire and rehire as a “national scandal” and said that by failing to approve the Bill, the government has “chosen to side with bad bosses”.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady tweeted: “This is just plain wrong! No one should be forced to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions. The government has sided today with bad employers.”
Sharon Graham, the general secretary at the Unite union, said: “The antics of the Conservative party today have been a disgrace. They have colluded to stand on the side of bullying bosses and against the interests of workers, showing their real colours. So the hypocrisy of the Tory party was on full display for all to see.”
The controversial practice of dismissing staff and rehiring them on worse terms and pay has attracted significant attention over recent years, with household names including British Gas, Weetabix and Clarks involved in disputes with unions over its use.
Earlier this year, the boss of British Gas owner Centrica told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that businesses needed a way of changing employees’ terms and conditions.
Acas published evidence on the use of fire and rehire in response to concerns about the practice.