William Hill plans to close 700 shops: how mass redundancy can severely damage businesses

On 4th July 2019, bookmaker William Hill announced that it was planning to close over 700 stores, leaving 4,500 employees at risk of redundancy. HRreview decided to reach out to professionals to find out how mass redundancy can affect a company’s effectiveness and morale and how businesses can combat this.

This news is the result of a highly controversial reform of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). These machines, a staple of betting shops, previously permitted a maximum stake of £100. However, after the decision of the UK Government was implemented in April 2019, FOBTs are now only allowed to accept maximum stakes of £2.

According to William Hill, this has resulted in a reported loss of £820 million within the first six months of 2019. William Hill has prepared to close 700 shops with 4,500 employees facing potential redundancy due to this.

Rick Smith, managing director of Forbes Burton, a company rescue and insolvency specialist, said:

Those at risk of redundancy, but whose jobs are saved, are much more likely to experience “survivor syndrome”, which is a pervading feeling of relief, but can give way to anxiety and mental and physical illnesses. Survivor syndrome often stems from the stress of colleagues losing their jobs and subsequent job security fears for themselves.

Supporting a form of communication is vitally important for everyone concerned, both before and after the redundancy notice period.

Those at director level may also be affected in a similar way when faced with financial stress and the risk of further closures which William Hill is using to mitigate changes in its way of doing business.

Helen Jamieson, founder and managing director of Jaluch HR and Training, said:

Large scale redundancies for organisations are extremely challenging, stressful and a logistical nightmare too.

The good companies don’t just tick the necessary legal boxes then start to send out confirmation of dismissals. They take a holistic view of the situation and further down the line reap the rewards for that including reduced grievances, a quicker return to engagement and productivity of current employees, less anger, frustration and bitterness.

Great companies place empathy and compassion as high on the list as knowledge of employment law when selecting those who will conduct consultation and dismissal meetings.

These companies identify ways in which they can support their ex-employees transition to new roles through CV and interview training, personal presentation training and, where possible, other training too. Lazy companies pride themselves on fast, efficient project management, irrespective of the impact on people. They only find out too late that business success and longevity can be catastrophically affected by such laziness.

I’m waiting to see what approach William Hill is going to take.

It appears this approach is slowly being revealed by William Hill.

An ex-employee of William Hill, who was made redundant as a result of the £820 million loss of the company, who wished to stay anonymous, told the BBC that he was told that his shop was being shut down by a pre-recorded conference call. This employee branded the decision to inform staff of redundancy in this manner as “disrespectful”.

He said:

The scale of the closures has come as a massive shock to lots of staff members who had been assured for months that they would not lose their jobs.

The upshot is that thousands of people will be left unemployed as a result of this and lives have already begun to turn upside down.

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Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.