Many Twitter employees are discovering whether they still have jobs, following Elon Musk’s takeover of the popular social media site. 

It has been speculated that he could be looking to cut up to 50 percent of Twitter’s 8,000-strong workforce.

The role of employment law

Although the company has offices and employees around the globe, including the UK and Republic of Ireland, its headquarters are in California. Under Californian law, if more than 50 people are being laid off at the same time they need a 60-day notice period.

A memo was sent out to all employees yesterday saying:  “By 9AM PST on Friday Nov. 4th, everyone will receive an individual email with the subject line: Your Role at Twitter. Please check your email, including your spam folder. – If your employment is not impacted, you will receive a notification via your Twitter email.”

“If your employment is impacted, you will receive a notification with the next steps via your personal email. – If you do not receive an email from twitter-hr@ by 5PM PST on Friday Nov. 4th, please email [email protected]. To help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data, our offices will be temporarily closed and all badge access will be suspended.”

Claire Brook, Employment Law Partner at Aaron and Partners Solicitors, said: 

“As part of a plan to cut payroll by £715 million by the end of next year, Twitter has closed all its offices amid announcements of layoffs and redundancy of up to 50 percent of its global 8,000 strong workforce.

“It is reported that at 4 pm today [Friday], those who are to be made redundant will receive a message to their personal email address, whilst employees who will be retained will receive a notification to their work email account.  In the meantime, many Twitter employees have published (on Twitter) that they have been locked out of the work system and commenced class action litigation.

“This is not the first ‘brutal’ approach to handling redundancy dismissals this year, indicating a potential trend towards ignoring UK collective consultation requirements (and the potential fines and penalties associated with non-compliance).

“Employers who fail to follow a fair process prior to effecting redundancy dismissals may face claims for unfair dismissal and protective awards (where collective consultation obligations are not complied with).

“Separately, this type of approach can have a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of all those affected.  As with any important project, employers should consider carefully planning any workforce changes and redundancy consultation processes, seek advice and train those who will be handling the process to avoid the risk of claims, in addition to minimising the impact (as far as possible) to all those concerned to maintain trust and confidence.”

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, says:

“A dismissal of this nature in the UK would generally not be lawful and would open an organisation up to significant risk of tribunal claims.

“Under UK employment law, employers who are considering making 20 or more employees redundant within a 90-day period must complete collective consultation and submit a notification of the proposed redundancy to the Secretary of State. They must also compile a compelling business case to justify the need to consider redundancy action and ensure any related selection processes were conducted in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.

“A company-wide email informing staff of redundancy would not only open an employer up to extensive liability, it could also negatively impact their image, reputation, and employee relations. It remains to be seen what legal ramifications there will be for Twitter from employees who are being laid off.

“Global organisations like Twitter are likely to be bound by different laws on fair dismissals depending on the country in which its affected employees are based.

“However, jurisdictional matters such as these can be complicated when it comes to where employees can make tribunal claims and therefore which laws apply. It would be for the Courts to decide on the country to which the employee had the closest connection.”

Mike Tremeer, Employment Partner at city law firm, Fladgate:

“The Twitter redundancy process is pretty painful to watch; offices closed, employees apparently finding out if they will be made redundant by email en masse (seemingly without any consultation) and some already locked out of the company systems in advance of that promised email (not a good sign).

“Until P&O this sort of approach was associated with territories with weak employee protections – not the UK. Is it something we will see more of in the future?

 “Other than efficiency (making the changes you want as quickly as possible), it’s difficult to see the rationale for it. It certainly seems to be a real backwards step in terms of employee relations and dignity.”

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.