The recent sale of Twitter to Elon Musk has hit the headlines for all kinds of reasons. Unusually, for something to do with popular culture, one of the main aspects of the deal which has caught the attention of the wider public is the HR fallout after the apparent breakdown in relations between the existing staff and their new CEO. With a global workforce, there will be some staff involved in this who are governed by UK and/or European employment laws. So what are the potential implications of this for Twitter’s new owner?
According to numerous reports, staff were told that they had to decide whether to commit to Twitter’s new working hours and regime (in essence, more hours and more work to do within them) or take three months’ severance pay and look for new employment. Clearly, this is not an acceptable way to manage redundancies, although it would appear that this situation persists in Twitter’s global subsidiaries, with no regard for the proper consultation process.
It is likely that UK-based staff would be able to explore a constructive dismissal claim, if, for example, they were unable to work the new hours but were given no alternative option. ACAS has produced a thorough guide to this area of employment law.
Further advice can also be found at www.employmentlawfriend.co.uk/constructive-dismissal. European Working Time rules also state that employees should not be expected to work excessive hours, and protections exist for any employee who has been directed to break this agreement without their express consent. Changes in flexible working arrangements, where staff are now expected to attend their offices rather than honouring previously agreed work-from-home arrangements, is another risky policy that could lead to tribunal claims being made.
Twitter, as we know it?
So with the potential avalanche of employment tribunal cases that could result from such wholesale and unilateral changes to employees’ terms and conditions, there are clearly negative financial implications for the company. Since these jobs that staff have left do not all appear to be redundant by any means, will the loss of knowledge and experience from these teams also hamper Twitter going forward? Almost certainly.
The negative media coverage of employee relations at Twitter will likely make it hard to recruit replacement staff, certainly experienced ones who will no doubt have other options available to them. The loss of experienced staff may well impact the functionality of the site and this will not do anything to retain users. Fewer users, of course, means reduced advertising revenue, although it should be noted that some major brands have resumed purchasing advertising space on the platform in recent days.
Overall, the recent resignations could have a major impact on Twitter for two reasons. Firstly the potential for constructive dismissal claim and other possible breaches of UK employment law for those employees based in the UK. The financial impact of this on such a huge company is likely to be negligible but the loss of experienced and knowledgeable staff, and the difficulties in finding new talent willing to replace them, could be far more problematic. The reputational damage of having employment practices called into question can be severe for any company, and this should always be considered when making any substantial changes in the workplace.