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BEERG Newsletter - Twitter: Compare and contrast

UK employees dismissed by Twitter when Elon Musk took charge are claiming the dismissals were conducted unlawfully and include unacceptable severance terms. London-based law firm Winckworth Sherwood accused Twitter of carrying out “unlawful, unfair and completely unacceptable treatment” to former UK employees as part of a “sham redundancy process” in a letter sent to the company and seen by the Financial Times.

Winckworth represents 43 of the more than 180 UK employees let go by the company in a mass lay-off in early November, just days after Musk bought the platform for $44bn. Twitter is estimated to have cut almost half of its 7,500-strong workforce since then. If their complaints were not resolved, many planned to go to an employment tribunal, the law firm warned. Under UK law, if a company decides to cut more than 100 jobs, there must be a consultation period of at least 45 days before redundancies can be made.

Twitter already faces at least 200 legal complaints in the US — in the form of arbitration demands — and four class action lawsuits from those affected by the lay-offs there, said labour rights attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, whose firm Lichten has filed the disputes. However, earlier this week A U.S. district judge ruled that five former Twitter employees who are pursuing a proposed class action accusing the social media platform of failing to give adequate notice before laying them off after its acquisition by Elon Musk must pursue their claims in private arbitration rather than a class action lawsuit. U.S. District Judge James Donato granted Twitter’s request to force the five ex-employees to pursue their claims individually, citing agreements they signed with the company.

Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal reports that human resources departments are debating about the most effective way to let employees go as company executives weigh downsizing. When exactly to let go of employees, whether to cut once or multiple times, and how much severance are among questions being considered by HR executives, as is whether firing over Zoom is more humane than making an employee visit the office to be told they’ve lost their job. Managers once insisted on delivering bad news face-to-face, but that practice changed amid the pandemic. 

Some human resources teams are building spreadsheets to track how many roles their peers cut and what they say to employees during the reductions. Veteran chief people officer Lorna Hagen has worked with colleagues to create a “run of show” document, which details minute-by-minute how a layoff should proceed, including when managers will talk to affected staff and when executives should communicate to the remaining workforce and the public. Training can give managers a script and guidance for navigating difficult conversations, but Katy George, a senior partner and chief people officer at McKinsey & Co., says: “I’m not sure there’s one recipe” for a layoff.

When it comes to layoffs, Europe and the US are two very different places. 

Published on: January 18, 2023

Topics: HR & Workforce Policy, The UK and European Union

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