Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Random House UK To Consult Its Way to 5% Job Cuts

Unlike the US, it appears that companies in the UK can't simply fire people and kick them out the front door; they have to have a 30-day "consultation" period -- though it's not clear who is consulting with whom -- before the sackings can commence.

Random House UK is entering just such a period now, and HarperCollins UK is either in one now or recently came out the other side, reports Book Brunch. Both intend to finish their consultation with 5% lesser staff than they began. (So what kind of "consultation" is it when you already know the result?)

I suppose the good news is that this gives all the Random House UK employees another month to polish up their resumes -- it's not great, but it's something.


Charlie Stross said...

5% job losses is an interesting figure.

Assuming a working life is 40 years; one year is 2.5% of that span. On which basis it might be feasible to make half the head-count reduction simply by allowing staff to retire up to 12 months early. And voluntary downsizing is not implausible for the other 2.5% (if RH are paying normal redundancy wages).

Given the effect of involuntary redundancy on staff morale (been there, done that, seen the loss of productivity for 6 months afterwards) I wouldn't be surprised if that's what the "consulting" business is about. Letting folks retire early or take voluntary redundancy doesn't hammer productivity the same way as swinging the axe.

Ian Sales said...

Redundancy is not the same as "sacking", although the end result may be for the ex-employee: no job.

By law, when a British company makes a person redundant, that position can never be filled again. It is gone. The consultation is usually to determine whether there are other positions in the company the person could fill. And people sometimes do get moved rather than leave the company. There's also typically a redundancy payment involved.

On the whole, I think the British system is a great deal more civilised than the US one...

Ray said...

In my company, 2 of the 5 people in a UK office were laid off recently. The manager didn't just say "You two - bye!", they went through a weeklong process of identifying the work that still needed to be done and the people who were best suited to doing that work. Which sounds like a nightmare to me, but has its good points

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