Skip to main content

Fire and Rehire

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 23 September 2021

6. What steps he is taking to help ensure that the use of fire and rehire tactics in (a) the public sector and (b) public funded bodies is not permitted. (903608)

17. What steps he is taking to help ensure that the use of fire and rehire tactics in (a) the public sector and (b) public funded bodies is not permitted. (903622)

Public sector bodies and employers are responsible for the management of their respective workforces. The Government have made it clear to all employers, and I wish to do so again now—including to those in the public sector—that the use of threats to fire and rehire people to pressure workers during negotiations is unacceptable.

I thank the Paymaster General for his response, but given the increasing prevalence of outsourcing throughout the public sector, where we have seen the creation of a two-tier workforce and a race to the bottom on pay and conditions, does he agree that no company that is found to be using fire and rehire tactics against its workers should be awarded public contracts or be allowed to take over public services in future?

I challenge the premise of the hon. Lady’s question. The UK has the best employment rights in the world. This Government have banned the exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts, and we introduced the national living wage in 2016 and the right to a day-one statement of rights for all workers in 2020. This Government—this party—are protecting the rights of workers and have established some of the best employment rights in the whole world.

Nevertheless, the point that the hon. Lady makes is recognised, and we have asked the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to look into the matter. We want to ensure that there is clearer guidance to help employers to explore all the options before they consider what one or two have been doing in respect of the fire and rehire policy. We are interested in maintaining and encouraging good employment relations. I cannot be clearer than what I have already said, which is that we think it is unacceptable to pressure workers in such a way during negotiations.

I thank the Paymaster General for his response, but during the pandemic I was contacted by many constituents in Vauxhall who were subject to this practice—constituents who had worked for many years for the likes of British Airways and British Gas; constituents whose lives were turned upside-down by the threat that they would lose their jobs. The Paymaster General said that he will put pressure on the organisations involved, but the pressure is not working, so will he give his full support to the private Member’s Bill that has its Second Reading on 22 October and would ban fire and rehire once and for all?

I am aware of the private Member’s Bill to which the hon. Lady referred. At this stage, I will say that the Government will respond to that Bill as it passes through Parliament. As I say, we have been clear that fire and rehire should not be used in the way the hon. Lady describes, or as a negotiating tactic, which is why we have asked ACAS to look carefully at the matter and to produce guidance. We will continue to keep the issue under review.

I have noticed the change in personnel on the Cabinet Office Front Bench and I would like to welcome all the Ministers to their place today. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s direction on fire and rehire, which is that he does not accept this bullying practice, but when will the Government take action on this? I accept the Minister’s response on ACAS, but this is just not good enough. If the Minister is committed to having good employment practices, what will he do to end this practice of fire and rehire? I reiterate that he can back the private Member’s Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), which will see the practice ended by this Parliament.

We are keeping the private Member’s Bill of the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) under review. I think the hon. Lady knows that, when it comes to protecting the rights of workers, this Government have been doing just that. I ask her to bear in mind the protected earnings for furloughed workers, the review into how employers can support victims of domestic violence in the workplace, and Jack’s law. There are myriad ways in which we have been protecting workers and their rights. We keep a laser-beam focus on that, and we will continue to do so.