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Private firm running NHS Covid test sites axing more than 5,000 jobs – letting all but 21 go without a penny

A non-public firm running more than 150 NHS Covid-19 testing centres, which recorded almost £95million revenue in simply two years, is axing more than 5,000 jobs – letting all but 21 folks go without a penny, The Independent can reveal.

Sodexo – which manages the sites on behalf of the Department for Health and has been amongst corporations in receipt of profitable taxpayer-funded contracts through the pandemic – has boasted its test centre workforce is “equivalent to the size of four major police forces”.

But the company is slicing the jobs of more than 5,000 folks working in its Covid testing community – with their final day at the moment.

It comes after Boris Johnson introduced final month that free mass Covid testing will cease from April 1 when the availability can be focused to essentially the most weak.

The UK arm of the multinational firm – based in France – paid out dividends in extra of £121million and banked pre-tax earnings totalling almost £95million within the two years to 31 August 2020.

The Independent has been informed some employees argue that collective session guidelines – which specify there must be not less than a 45-day session interval for 100 or more worker redundancies and not less than 30 days for 20 to 99 – haven’t been correctly adopted by Sodexo.

Earlier this month, P&O Ferries sparked widespread outrage by sacking 800 employees without discover as a part of a transfer to interchange them with international company employees paid much less than the minimal wage.

Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow minister for employment rights and protections, stated: “If people losing their jobs haven’t had a proper consultation process it’s not acceptable for any employee, let alone those who have been on the frontline of Covid.”

He added: “Doing the bare minimum, possibly not even that, is not much of a reward for the work that these people have put in, is it? They must feel pretty cheated and undervalued.”

Sodexo’s Covid testing workforce at one stage totalled 9,000-plus folks, but dropped to roughly 8,500 in England, Scotland and Wales. In England, round 2,400 Sodexo Covid testing staff on fastened-time period contracts – which had been as a result of run till the top of January 2023 – have been despatched redundancy letters serving discover that their final day is at the moment [March 31], with about 4,400 casual employees additionally being let go.

Sodexo stated 1,020 of these on fastened-time period contracts are “going through redeployment” – it means not less than about 5,800 jobs are being lower. However, there’s understood to be no assure these folks going by redeployment can be given new roles inside the company. An additional 981 casual employees in England on prime of the round 6,800 employees have been (*21*) with jobs at Sodexo, the firm stated.

Fixed-term contract employees on the company with much less than two years’ service usually are not entitled to a redundancy fee. Casual employees are being let go without any fee too. The firm stated 21 staff on fastened-time period contracts who’ve labored past two years “will receive their legally entitled payment”.

Sodexo stated there are a additional 325 fastened-time period contract staff in Wales and Scotland, in addition to round 400 casual employees. Scotland and Wales are nonetheless underneath session, in response to the firm.

On Friday, Sodexo Covid testing employees on fastened-time period contracts in England had been issued with redundancy letters through e-mail.  A “generic email version of individual posted letters” seen by The Independent states: “Further to our previous consultation meetings, it is now with regret that I write to confirm that you were formally given notice that your employment within the COVID test centre network will terminate on 31 March 2022 by reason of redundancy. This is due to the closure of your site and that no suitable redeployment options were identified.

“You will be required to work all your notice period and I confirm your notice is from 25 March 2022 and your last working day will be 31 March 2022. You are not entitled to a statutory redundancy payment as you have less than two years service.”

Redundancy letters additionally “went out” to the round 2,400 fastened-time period contract staff in England in “the few days before” Friday’s e-mail, in response to Sodexo. The roughly 5,400 casual employees in England had been notified “at the end of February” that there can be no work out there after 31 March, the firm confirmed. Of these, 981 casual employees had been redeployed after the notification, Sodexo stated.

One Sodexo worker amongst these dropping their job, who alleges there has not been a correct session course of, informed The Independent: “We always knew it was going to come to an end, that’s less of an issue, but we feel as a group how badly we’re being treated when we’ve been on the frontline providing a service for the British public in what’s been a dangerous job in many instances… to treat us like this at the end is absolutely appalling.”

Casual employees usually are not eligible for redundancy session. However, folks on fastened-time period contracts being made redundant earlier than their contract ends do have the fitting to collective session.

Employment lawyer Rakesh Patel, of Thompsons Solicitors, stated: “A statutory redundancy payment is usually payable to an employee who has at least two years’ continuous employment at the relevant date and who has either been dismissed by reason of redundancy. The amount of payment is dependent on the length of service, age and weekly salary.

“There is nothing to stop an employer paying more and indeed some employers have more generous schemes than the statutory minimum.  Some employers also provide entitlement to redundancy payments at less than two years continuous service.”

A press launch by Sodexo in July about how a contract for NHS Test & Trace work had been prolonged stated that as of the subsequent month the firm would function 30 per cent of all UK testing centres. It stated it could “operate 28 regional (drive-through) testing sites, 146 local (walk-in) testing sites and 149 mobile testing units, as well as the recruitment of testers for 67 sites operated by other service providers, from 16 August 2021”.

According to its newest accounts, Sodexo’s UK arm paid out £29.28 million in dividends the year to 31 August 2020. In the year ended 31 August 2019, £92.25million was paid in dividends. Sodexo Ltd recorded a pre-tax revenue of £13.272million in 2020/19, and £81.727million in 2019/18.

Sodexo was awarded a £404million contract by the Crown Commercial Service for the “Provision of Facilities Management Services to COVID-19 Testing Sites” running for one year from 25 June 2021 to 25 June 2022. A Sodexo spokesperson defined the contract pertains to running its test centres and the sum was “a potential figure for the entire duration of the contract and this will now be ending far in advance of the end date”.

Neal Gisborne, Sodexo’s Divisional Managing Director for Test Centres, stated: “… when the government announced that free testing would end in England on 1 April, we moved quickly to fulfil our legal obligations within that timeframe, to keep our workers informed and to offer redeployment and other help where possible.

“Following the government’s announcement on February 21, we wrote to everyone within hours to inform them and followed up within days to say consultation would start at sites with more than 20 employees, as well as submitted HR1 forms. We also provided notice in line with employment contracts. We all knew that the day would come when sites closed and knew this news would be difficult to hear.”

He stated the firm “have offered counselling, CV and interview training,” including: “To date, we have redeployed 981 (with 1,020 still going through the process) of a total of [approximately] 8,500 people and will continue this redeployment work over the coming weeks.”

A UKHSA spokesperson stated: “We’ve provided testing colleagues with regular updates around the future of PCR testing in England…. with as much notice as was possible. We are extremely grateful for the efforts of all staff and have worked with their employers to make sure they are supported during this transition.”

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