MONDAY 19 APR 2021 2:59 PM


Companies in the UK have come under fire for using ‘fire and rehire’ tactics to cut employee wages and change contract terms. British Gas is among those at the forefront of the accusations, creating lasting damage to the company’s employee reputation.

Private employers have been exposed for threatening to dismiss and rehire staff with reduced contract terms. These same companies are revealed to be profiting from the cuts, with some also claiming government support in response to Covid-19

Among the accused is British Gas, after engineers were fired for refusing to agree to new contract terms. British Gas employees were presented with the amended contracts at the beginning of the year, which included increased working hours and pay cuts up to 15%. There has since been 43 days of strikes against the fire and rehire scheme.

The deadline for British Gas engineers to accept these terms or lose their jobs was last Wednesday 14 April. Gary Smith, Scotland secretary of the GMB union, shared images of ‘van graveyards’ as British Gas vans were returned by employees just two days before the deadline.

On 13 April, former British Gas employee, Debbie Tinsley, tweeted “I along with many others will be fired by British Gas. What have I done wrong? Absolutely nothing, we just didn’t agree to their new contract that would make us work longer hours for less pay. 30 years of loyal service for nothing.” The tweet received over 30k likes in support.

The disregard for employee welfare has caused a wave of negative communications online with #StopTheBritishGasFire trending on twitter for several weeks.

British Gas reported profits of £80m, while Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, received £27m from UK government schemes throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

The media coverage and social outrage at the treatment of workers has called for greater transparency in employee rights across sectors. On 15 April, Trade Union Unite, representing transport workers in the UK, called for Sadiq Khan to ban fire and rehire tactics on bus services. This followed accusations that Manchester and London bus service provider, Go Ahead Group, used the fire and rehire tactics to cut workers pay.

British Gas and Go Ahead Group are big names in the investigations, but they are certainly not alone. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, tweeted that “one in ten workers have experienced disgraceful fire and rehire tactics.”

While the firing and rehiring of employees is not illegal, it is certainly controversial and coveys a corporate lack of care for its workers. These tactics may cut costs and stabilise businesses in the short term but the damage to corporate reputation and employee engagement is likely to have a much deeper impact longer term.