Redundancy and Covid-19 – Are our redundancy laws strong enough?

An IER expert webinar

25th February 2021 – 10:00 am - 3:35 pm

About this event

As redundancies reach a record high of 14.2 per thousand, we ask isn’t it time to review the laws that are supposed to protect workers from losing their jobs?

Part of our Law in Focus series of premium events, this issue will be scrunitised in detail by our expert panel of senior union officials and leading employment lawyers and academics. This full half-day conference includes two-and-a-half hours of expert content, thoroughly updating delegates on the latest in labour law and trade union campaigning; a full 40 minutes earmarked for your questions, personally answered by our panel; and a cost-effective way to earn CPD points.

The morning session opens with Steve Mitchell, Deputy Head of Legal services at USDAW – a union that has seen much news coverage recently over its success in winning a living wage for supermarket workers and its high-profile campaign to save jobs put a risk by the Covid-19 pandemic. The retail sector is among the most vulnerable to collapse during this crisis, as fears grow that the high street will be forever changed. The concerns that closing shops will add a soaring unemployment rate have been deepened by the recent news that Sir Philip Green’s struggling Arcadia Group will be taken over by ASOS, which intends to move Arcadia brands such as Topshop, Miss Selfridges and Dorothy Perkins online. Steve will report on the lessons learned by both the USDAW campaign team and his own department in fighting for jobs on the shop floor, in Parliament and through strategic legal challenges.

Professor Alan Bogg of the University of Bristol will follow with a detailed analysis of the interplay between the government’s Job Retention Scheme and the rate of redundancies. Opposition parties have been fighting for an extension to furlough arrangements and financial support after fears were raised that the withdrawal of the Scheme prior to the recovery of the economy will inevitably lead to even more job losses. Professor Bogg will expand on his previous examinations of the Job Retention Scheme, which were among the most influential contributions to the IER’s output in 2020.

After delegates have been given the opportunity to put their questions and comments to our morning speakers, and a 15-minute break has allowed everyone to take some much-needed time away from their screens, we will present our second senior trade union official of the day, Steve Turner – Assistant General Secretary of Unite. Through it’s SOS for jobs campaign, Unite is urging the govermment to protect the livelihoods of those who work in the manufacturing sector. Hard-hit by the Coronavirus crisis, the collapse of the manufacturing industry would put 2.7m jobs at risk. Steve will share Unite’s approach to save the sector, where it has found success, and where it will go in the future.

Solicitor Neil Todd of Thompsons Solicitors will provide the practical law update for which the IER is prized. He will update delegates on case law over the last 12 months as it relates to redundancy law and its interpretation in the courts. He will also expand on the potential impact of recent tribunal decisions on the cases brought forward by unions in the future, of which there are likely to be many as the redundancy crisis deepens.

Closing the event, Lord John Hendy QC and Professor Keith Ewing will bring their formidable experience to bear on the morning’s analysis, identifying loopholes and flaws in the law that are failing workers. They will go on to consider how the law can be reformed to prevent workers bearing a disproportionate burden when the economy comes under pressure, and to mitigate the power imbalance intrinsic to the relationship between workers and employers.


–  10:00 Carolyn Jones, IER Director – Chairperson

– 10:10 Steve Mitchell, Deputy Head of Legal services at USDAW – Positive USDAW campaigns: stopping the damage of redundancy on the high street.

– 10:40 Prof Alan Bogg, Bristol Univ – The furlough job retention scheme and redundancy: an analysis

– 11:10 Questions

– 11:30 Tea break

– 11:45 Steve Turner, Unite Assistant General Secretary – How Unite are helping to prevent redundancies and save manufacturing jobs

– 12:15 Neil Todd, Thompsons Solicitors – The current redundancy statute and case law landscape

– 12:45 John Hendy QC and Prof Keith Ewing, IER – Redundancy law and loopholes – the way forward.

– 13:15 Questions

– 13:35 End