People in an office

Manchester United – Employees’ Return to Office & Voluntary Redundancy

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company Ineos acquired a 27.7% stake in Manchester United, in February 2024, and they have already started to make significant structural changes to the organisation.

Some of these changes have impacted the clubs’ non-footballing employees. We take a look at the major developments below.

Return to Office

The club has informed all its non-footballing employees to be back in the workplace full-time by 1 June 2024.

It has been reported that Sir Jim Ratcliffe informed staff that in one of his other companies, email traffic reduced by as much as 20% when they trialled a working from home day.

Stopping remote working is one of Ratcliffe’s new reforms as he attempts to create a working culture where Manchester United’s employees are productive and connected.

Can all employers force employees to return to the office?

Since COVID, many employers have adopted a hybrid/remote working practice. Some employers are now wanting this to end, and this begs the question as to whether employers can compel employees to return to the office.

The starting point for employees, is to check what has been agreed in their contract of employment. If their contract states that their place of work is their employer’s office, then their employer will be able to call them back to the office at any time.

With that said, if a company has been operating on a hybrid/remote basis, it is advisable for the employer to consult with the employees before imposing any significant change.

Employers should be wary that forcing all employees to return to the office holds the risk of being discriminatory. For example, if a disabled employee is unable to travel to work employers should look to make the necessary reasonable adjustments.

If the change to working full time in the office is imposed by an employer, employees can still submit a flexible working request. New flexible working regulations came into effect on 6 April 2024, which you can read more about here.

Voluntary Redundancy

As part of Ratcliffe’s restructuring of Manchester United, he is committed to reducing the number of employees. On 28 May 2024 it was reported that all non-footballing employees were invited to take voluntary redundancy and have until 5 June 2024 to make their decision.

Despite this, a spokesperson from Manchester United has said: “This isn’t a voluntary redundancy programme. The club recognises that not everyone wants to work from the office full-time so has provided options for staff who don’t wish to return to the office to step away now.”

It is expected that those who do accept the offer will be entitled to complete their notice (or receive payment in lieu of notice) and receive a payment of their annual bonus which would normally be due in September.

Voluntary Redundancy – Employers’ obligations

For voluntary redundancies, it is important that employers follow the same process that they would for a regular redundancy situation. Even if an employee volunteers for redundancy, it does not automatically make the dismissal fair or lawful, so it is important employers have a fair selection criterion.

Employers should still consult with all affected employees, inform them of their rights and the reason for the redundancy.

If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact the Michelmores Employment team.