The unexpected announcement on the closure of the News of the World by News International was met with shock by most observers. By Richard Smith, HR expert at Croner.
The News of the World statement acknowledges that the paper’s owners have made mistakes which have resulted in the closure announcement. However, this is an insufficient reason alone for dismissing employees. “If it is true that many News of the World employees will lose their jobs by this action, Croner believes that it will be a case study of how not to handle redundancy. On the face of it, this is an appalling situation for the paper’s employees.
“Although we are not yet aware of the full facts, the News of the World situation may present a number of issues from an employment law perspective. As with any of the thousands of businesses that Croner advises from an employment law and HR perspective, this is our advice: A firm cannot make hundreds of people redundant without consultation; there appears to be a clear breach of the provisions of the relevant legislation in this situation. There is a great danger of claims for unfair dismissal unless alternative work is being offered within the company. If, as is rumoured, a new Sunday newspaper will take the place of the News of the World from News International, there is a possibility that this may be subject to a TUPE transfer and will therefore give staff rights to transfer.
“Leaving aside the law, the process of informing employees of the closure has, in Croner’s view, been brutal and lacked best practice. It also brings into play other aspects of corporate governance covered by UK legislation. “If it proves to be true that News of the World journalists have paid bribes to obtain information, good financial management of a company should have made it difficult to conduct business in this way. Supervision of such activity is required under the Bribery Act and, if there is no proper system in place, senior managers can be liable for criminal offences. Employers should ensure that proper standards are known and enforced in any business by communication, training and dealing with transgressors.”