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Up to 200 workers could face redundancy at Ocado call centre

Sarah Butler
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Simon Newman/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Simon Newman/Reuters

Ocado could make up to 200 workers at its Hatfield call centre redundant as it shifts the roles to Sunderland in an apparent cost-cutting move at a time when the online grocer is recording record profits.

One call centre worker involved in a 45-day redundancy consultation process which kicked off this week described the cuts as “quite brutal” for staff who worked throughout lockdown as Ocado responded to a huge surge in orders.

“The people who are [likely] to be made redundant are key workers and worked from the office throughout the pandemic. The staff [potentially] being made redundant will be offered the legal minimum redundancy package and notice. All this at a time when Ocado are making record profits, the share price is through the roof and the chief executive took a £54m bonus,” the worker said.

Under statutory redundancy rules, those who have worked for the company for less than two years will not receive any pay off. Those who are entitled to redundancy pay are concerned they may be disqualified if they do not accept alternative roles offered to them. Statutory redundancy pay rules state that a worker is not entitled to a pay off if an employer offers suitable alternative work which is refused without “good reason”.

The cuts come just days after Ocado’s share price surged to a new high as the online grocery specialist said its retail sales had jumped 52% during the pandemic with a new partnership with Marks & Spencer proving popular.

The shares have soared from £12.60 at the turn of this year to £28.65, reaching yet another record on Wednesday. The business is now valued at just a fraction less than Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer.

“Nobody is happy to be made redundant but if a company is struggling it makes sense – not when a company is doing well like Ocado.”

“This is clearly to save a few quid,” the worker said, claiming that staff in Sunderland were paid an average £5,000 less a year than those in Hatfield.

Ocado said that the Hatfield workers would be offered jobs in Sunderland or in other warehouse or support roles in Hatfield. It declined to comment on any difference in pay between the two sites and said that consultation was on-going.

The company said it was making the changes as it had determined that its call centre operations would be more efficient if run from one location. “We are proposing that our Hatfield contact centre close, and the roles transfer to our existing purpose-built contact centre in Sunderland. The proposal will keep the overall headcount the same, but have the entire contact service operation operate under one roof.

“Should the proposal go ahead, all Hatfield contact centre colleagues would be offered a relocation package to Sunderland, or have the option to be redeployed into other Ocado logistics roles. In the event that a colleague chooses not to take these options, there may be redundancies although our ultimate aim is to keep as many people in our business as possible.”