For those of you who have not yet heard (all seven of you), Elon Musk has recently acquired the largest shareholding on Twitter. Since the recent acquisition, which completed late last month, there have been several reports voicing the concerns of Twitter employees, both former and current.
3,700 employees have reportedly been dismissed following the acquisition, largely believed to be due to Musk’s concerns as to the daily losses suffered by Twitter.
Whilst those affected are mainly based in the US offices, Twitter also has operations in the UK, and it is likely that UK employees will also be affected by these changes. In fact, if redundancies on such a scale were proposed here, Twitter should follow a collective redundancy process.
This process applies where an employer intends to dismiss 20 or more employees in the space of 90 days (or less), under s.188(1) Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (or TULRCA).
The steps involved in the collective redundancy process, above and beyond those of a regular redundancy, include:
- an obligation to notify the Secretary of State in writing of the proposal prior to any notice being issued to terminate an employee’s employment,
- provision of information to “affected employees”
- if more than 100 employees are affected – a consultation period with “appropriate representatives” (often elected) of no less than 45 days prior to the first dismissal. If between 20 and 99 employees are affected, this period is reduced to 30 days.
If this process is not correctly undertaken, the employment tribunal can award up to a maximum of 90 days’ gross pay for each employee affected. This would be in addition to any award provided for unfair dismissal, which would also have to be accounted for.
Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR)
In more recent reports, Musk has been reported to have sent an email to the remaining employees of Twitter proposing that they work “long hours at high intensity”.
Despite the generic nature of this request, from a UK perspective there would likely be ramifications in the form of claims under the WTR for any employee who has decided to adhere to Musk’s request.
If employees are required to work hours that exceed 48 hours per week, an employer is obligated to obtain the “worker’s agreement in writing” of this consent, usually in the form of an opt-out agreement. Nevertheless, bar very few exceptions, employees remain entitled to compensatory rest. Claims can arise where the excessive hours are worked over a 17 week reference period.
There are also obvious consequences on culture that this request presents. Ultimately, a more productive workforce is the most desirable outcome for an employer and often happy employees are often more productive. Where these top level demands are unreasonable it risks creating a less tolerable environment and as a result may lead to more voluntary departures. This may include the best performing staff, impacting productivity further.
In Musk’s reported email request, the option to leave Twitter is presented to those employees that do not wish to adhere to his request. Those who wished to leave were offered three months’ severance pay.
UK employees are guaranteed minimum periods of notice under s.86 Employment Rights Act 1996 (or the ERA). This means employees who have worked for an employer for longer than one month to be entitled to a week’s notice for each completed year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
Therefore, the severance pay offered by Musk may provide for an attractive offer for those employees with relatively little service, but not the long-serving employee.
Overall, it is certainly an interesting business strategy and time will tell how the company will move forward.
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