William Hill Closure Announcement
Members will be aware of William Hill’s announcement that it plans to shed approximately 4,500 jobs and close about 700 shops because of the fall in fixed-odds betting machine business.
The full details of what’s planned and how the company will manage this process remain to be seen and they say details will be made known later this year.
The reduction in the number of shops affects about 30% of the total. It seems unlikely therefore that the company will be able to redeploy many of the staff affected unless it offers redundancy terms that will cause a large number of people to opt for voluntary redundancy.
Whilst we don’t say categorically that this will arise in William Hill, our wide-ranging experience of redundancy programmes in different industries suggest that employers tell the media that they will try to use voluntary redundancy and redeployment to avoid compulsory redundancy even though they know perfectly well that large scale compulsory redundancies will be unavoidable.
The same or very similar redundancy issues arise in most companies with large closure programmes.
Unsuitable Offers of Alternative Employment
The law allows an employer to move you to another ‘suitable’ job but it doesn’t take an employment lawyer to work out that what may be suitable to person A in his or her circumstances won’t be suitable for person B. Uncertainty in this area and an employee’s lack of legal knowledge is often exploited to force people to resign. Most betting shop employees are not members of any trade union and are therefore wide open to this ploy.
We saw this ‘dodge’ used in another betting shop chain this week, where a manager told a member of staff that if she did not accept a reduction in her hours (which she could not do for financial reasons) and move to a different shop, she would be treated as having dismissed herself and would receive no redundancy pay. After representation by Affinity this position was reversed and the member will now receive her redundancy pay in accordance with that company’s policies.
As I say, this did not concern William Hill but the same issue arises very regularly across different industries.
Moves of office to locations that managers know people cannot get to and changes of working hours that they know people can’t accept are other well practised tactics.
You can help us help you by contacting us as soon as you suspect that any of these factors may come into play. Phone 01234 716005 and choose Option 1.
Use of Disciplinary Action To Avoid Redundancy Payments
This tactic is equally well known and we routinely deal with cases where disciplinary allegations are either invented or blown up out of all proportion to get rid of people without the cost of redundancy pay.
Banking and betting shops are two industries where a combination of a regulated environment (Think21 etc.) and money as the raw material produce levels of disciplinary cases unheard of elsewhere. In betting shops in particular, the inexperience of many managers handling disciplinary cases and their poor judgement of situations makes things worse.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Well, the obvious thing is not to break any rules but a more useful piece of advice is to think carefully about any problem in your shop that could lead to a rule breach despite your best endeavours and raise it as soon as it becomes evident. A customer entry buzzer that doesn’t work would be one example. If you’ve raised it already, raise it again in writing and keep a copy. Tell us what you’ve done.
As important as anything is to let us know as soon as any situation arises that could lead to disciplinary action. Talk to us before you talk to anyone else. You can call the Union’s Advice Team 24/7 on 01234 716005 (Choose Option 1).