Collective Redundancy – P&O Ferries

Few readers would have missed the recent news regarding the sacking of ship workers by P&O Ferries.  This has brought the somewhat archaic and specialist provisions of collective redundancy into the public eye.  

In terms of normal processes, given the scale of the redundancies (100 or more), the employer should have carried out collective consultation with the appropriate representatives for 45 days.  The employer would also normally have had to notify the BEIS at the start of that period by submitting a Form HR1 (and there are potential criminal penalties for not doing so). There are also further provisions regarding a fair selection process and consultation.  Ultimately, employees made redundant are entitled to minimum notice periods and the statutory redundancy pay entitlement.  

Although the finer details of the case are not known, it appears that P&O Ferries did not comply with most, if not all, of this law, presumably making a financial calculation of the commercial benefits of dispensing of their obligations. It would seem therefore that the sacked employees have potentially substantial claims against the company for unfair dismissal and other payments that were not paid.


There are very limited provisions in collective redundancy situations for an employer to not follow proper process, but only where there are very unexpected and unforeseen circumstances.  That clearly did not apply here.  

The case has led to calls in the news for further legislation to ban “fire and re-hire”.  It is worth noting that that usually applies where the same employee’s previous terms are terminated, and they are re-employed on inferior terms. This did not happen here, instead, P&O Ferries re-hired agency workers.

It remains to be seen whether or not there will in fact be any legislative change in this area once the news has died down.  In early Autumn last year, a review of the practice of ‘traditional’ fire and re-hire did not lead to any substantial changes to the law, with the Government simply electing to have some new guidance published.  It is understood that presently the Government is looking at introducing a national minimum wage in the ferry industry, albeit this may be more complicated legally than presently envisaged.

It is obviously worth employers noting that whilst P&O Ferries may have thought they were making a good commercial decision (and indeed management said they would take the same decision again) the potential claims and fallout from the situation may yet undermine that decision.