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P&O Ferries Ltd (P&O) made 786 of its seafarers redundant, without prior consultation, on 17 March 2022. The company announced it plans to move to a new operating model using third-party agency workers to crew its ships.


Employees have a statutory right to redundancy pay under the Employment Rights Act 1996, as well as having a contractual or common law right to adequate notice of dismissal. P&O have said they are paying those made redundant more than the statutorily required redundancy pay, as well as up to 13 weeks salary in lieu of notice.

Some legal commentators have suggested that P&O’s actions have not met the legal definition of redundancy. Where employees have been told they are being made redundant but there is not a genuine redundancy situation, it could instead constitute unfair dismissal under Part 10 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

However, the ability of P&O seafarers to bring unfair dismissal claims may be limited by the fact that the 1996 Act only extends protection from unfair dismissal to seafarers if their vessel is registered in Great Britain.


Under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, where an employer proposes to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within 90 days or fewer, they must consult with employee representatives before the redundancies.

P&O have accepted that they were required to consult with employee representatives but chose not to do so. Instead, they have offered to pay a further 13 weeks salary to each employee to compensate for the absence of a consultation period, equivalent to the maximum award a tribunal could grant for a failure to consult ahead of redundancies.

Notification of authorities

Usually, under section 193 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, employers proposing to dismiss 100 or more employees as redundant within 90 days must notify the Secretary of State, in writing, 45 days in advance. Failure to comply is a criminal offence.

Changes made in 2018, however, mean that for seafarers on vessels registered overseas, the duty to notify the Secretary of State is transformed into a duty to notify the overseas authorities of the state where the vessel is registered. There has been some legal debate as to whether the criminal offence also applies to a failure to comply with this altered duty.

On 1 April the Insolvency Service announced they have initiated criminal and civil investigations into P&O Ferries over their handling of the redundancies.

Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) currently applies to workers on offshore sites in the UK’s territorial waters or on its continental shelf, all seafarers on vessels serving UK domestic routes, as well as seafarers on UK registered vessels, in both UK and non-UK waters, as long as they are ordinarily resident in the UK. The NMW does not currently apply to seafarers on vessels serving international routes.

The CEO of P&O Ferries has said that workers on UK domestic routes will continue to receive NMW, while some seafarers under their new agency crewing model will be paid £5.15 an hour. This is compared with the UK National Living Wage (for those aged 23 and over) of £9.50.

The Government has announced plans for new legislation to allow ports to refuse access to ferries that do not pay their crew the NMW.

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