Social justice law firm, Thompsons Solicitors, has today [18 March 2021] issued High Court proceedings against Tesco to challenge its fire and rehire tactics, supported by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW).

A total of 74 workers employed at three Tesco distributions centres in England, two in Daventry and one in Litchfield, are at risk of having their terms slashed through a fire and rehire process, which will cost some of them a third of their wages.

Fire and rehire is a controversial process where employers fire employees before rehiring them immediately afterwards, on less favourable terms and conditions often affecting pay, benefits and working hours.

In October 2020, the supermarket giant reported a surge in profits for the first half of the year as customers bought more food in the pandemic and online orders doubled. Its pre-tax profit for the 26 weeks to 29 August was £551 million, which was up by 28.7 per cent compared to 2019. Yet despite these booming profits, now nearly 100 workers face less favourable terms in their contracts and reduced pay.


It’s shameful that Tesco’s renowned tagline ‘every little helps’ doesn’t extend to its workers whose wages are at risk.

Neil Todd Trade union law specialist

The proceedings follow hot on the heels of a successful injunction against Tesco by Thompsons’ sister company in Scotland, which opposed the supermarket’s fire and rehire policies north of the border. Now, USDAW and Thompsons Solicitors are seeking a speedy trial to challenge the move in England.

Neil Todd, a trade union specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This is a classic fire and re-hire tactic. Tesco’s attempt to move away from a retained pay arrangement by sacking and then rehiring its staff is not only controversial legally, but also morally bankrupt.

“Tesco has used the uncertainty of job security in the pandemic to manipulate its workers into taking worse terms because they are so scared of losing their jobs – and this comes not long after Tesco reported its pre-tax profit last year was £551 million. This is a slap in the face to its staff who have worked to the bone during the pandemic.

“It’s shameful that Tesco’s renowned tagline ‘every little helps’ doesn’t extend to its workers whose wages are at risk.”

Joanne McGuinness, USDAW national officer, added: “Our members are facing a huge cut in wages after Tesco moved to renege on a longstanding collective agreement on retained pay that was made in good faith. We won a major victory in the Scottish courts in the fight against these ‘fire and rehire’ tactics and we hope to replicate that in the High Court for our members in England.

“Tesco can stop this now by doing the right thing and withdrawing their threat to these longstanding staff, who have worked throughout the pandemic to keep stores stocked with the essential items we all rely on.”

Sectors from aviation to retail, distribution and logistics have been hit by a culture of fire and rehire during the pandemic. In January this year, the TUC reported that nearly 25 per cent of workers in the UK have had their contracted terms downgraded during the crisis, with BME workers twice as likely to face this in comparison to white workers.