Vodafone HR chief insists job cuts and pension closure have not damaged recruitment brand

Vodafone’s HR chief is confident that the firm’s decision to close its final salary pension scheme and cut jobs during the recession will not put graduates off applying to work at the company.

Yesterday the firm announced plans to hire 50 graduates next year to work in its retail business and support functions.

Just last month the mobile phone operator sent a letter to staff informing them of a consultation exercise, ahead of a planned closure of the defined benefit scheme in April. The firm has also been forced to make 500 redundancies this year, including HR jobs.

But Matthew Brearley told Personnel Today: “We never like making changes that could be perceived negatively – but the reality of the pension change is that it starts from a commitment to making a strategic investment in the defined contribution (DC) scheme.

“For the past four years, only the DC scheme was open to new applications anyway. Future accrual of existing employees will go into the DC scheme [not the final salary scheme].”

He added he could assure graduates joining the firm next year under the centrally-operated scheme that they would be safe in their jobs. “Those that can cut it will have a permanent job after the scheme. The ethos is, we want graduates who are hungry. If they can prove that they have got what it takes, they will have nothing to worry about,” he said.

He anticipated keeping about 25-40 graduates on out of the 50 employed on the graduate scheme, but those leaving would only be doing so because they were not right for the job.

Brearley said that for every 50 graduate places offered at the firm, it usually received about 5,000 applications. The company had robust selection processes in place to make sure it filtered the right candidates for interview, he said.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has promised to “substantially improve” the DC scheme. On 31 March 2009, the assets of Vodafone’s defined benefit scheme had a £60m shortfall against its liabilities of £815m.

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