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By Maureen Nzioki

Nov. 11, 2022

What’s next for Twitter? Several twitter employees moved forward to file a lawsuit for unlawful layoff. A few days ago, some staff members were recalled. (either by mistake or their skills are still required). 

When the lawsuit claims reached the public, the attorneys for the plaintiffs claimed that Twitter will pay some of the workers that were laid off by last January. Legally, the employers should provide written notice of termination of employment at least 60 days before layoffs. 

According to Elon Musk, the CEO of Twitter, the massive layoff of his employees was caused by the drop in revenue caused by activists that pressure advertisers even though content moderation has not changed. He also stated that the company (Twitter) is losing $4 million per day, therefore the layoffs were inevitable. 

Since the ownership of twitter was known to change months ago, big brands like General Motors, Volkswagen, Mondelez, and General Mills, are said to have stopped their advertisements on the platform, while they waited to see the new direction of Twitter. The layoffs are happening about a week after Elon Musk officially bought Twitter. Before Musk joined as the CEO there were about 7,500 employees and it is said that around 3,700 people, 50% of the staff were laid off after his takeover, as confirmed by Yoel Roth, head of Twitter’s trust and safety team.

 Among the workers who lost their jobs, 784 were from the headquarters in San Francisco, and 199 were from San Jose and Los Angeles. Workers did not show up in offices in London and Dublin, emails were sent out stating that the offices will be temporarily closed. Even before the layoffs were official, some employees had already noticed some unusual happenings that made them believe all is not well. Some of the workers were logged out on emails, and the company’s slack group, employees who were employed on work permits had their permits revoked without notice. 

According to an interview conducted by CNN, one employee was relieved to have been laid off because she felt like being safe would have been a punishment. The sudden layoff has now reflected poorly on Twitter and its work culture, this has left a bitter taste in people’s mouths. 

  The leadership of Elon Musk has resulted in what is seen as Twitter’s downfall. Since he joined the office, over 800,000 people have deactivated their accounts and over 400,000 accounts have been deactivated. He planned to change Twitter for the company to get more revenue but it seems like things are not going according to his plan. With the backlash going on now about Twitter, his plans of charging $8 a month for the verification badge have since been put on hold to avoid more heat being directed toward the company.

So, what should ideally happen in such a situation, where a company is looking at improving the bottom line, which comes with laying off staff as a major action point? Concern should be noted that some staff members were recalled back; Did a manager just follow instructions to present a list of people to lay off, so that they can save their jobs as well? Additional cross–border layoffs were done in Ghana and India. In any massive layoff due to re-organisation – the below steps would help in streamlining a smooth exit process. 

  • The process of handover and takeover has been done quite quickly, in most situations it’s never this rushed; in an ideal situation, some sort of team will be constituted to support the massive change process. 
  • Proper communication is also done, to ensure the staff members are clear on the steps that will be taken towards the layoff process. The communication is usually done before any change process occurs 
  • Notice period, in an ideal situation a notice period is given, based on the contract and also the Employment regulations of the region. For example, in Kenyan majority of the contracts have 1 month’s notice or payment in lieu. Also depends on the role, some senior roles have 3 months notice period. However, in this situation, the employees were dismissed immediately and locked out of company premises, emails, and company communication – this is expected especially in a tech role, where you don’t want negative reactions, where team members might mess up with the code. Also, any termination should end immediately, of course with the relevant payoff. 
  • Counselling (Outplacement), people react to termination differently and most companies invest in outplacement services. People who have worked for a company for most of their lives and had no plans to leave the company may react differently than people who have changed jobs several times. 
  • Severance pay – This is a redundancy situation and payment is required by law. In Kenya, employees declared redundant have a right to be paid their leave days not taken in cash and severance pay of not less than 15 days’ pay for each completed year of service. The Employer also has to pay the Employee declared redundant not less than one month’s notice or one month’s wages in lieu of notice. This may not apply to employees who are members of a registered pension scheme or provident fund including NSSF. Other companies have a laid-out process on what should happen in a redundancy situation in addition to what the Employment act stipulates. Also, different countries have different ways of handling redundancies. 

Procedurally, when declaring a position redundant, the following steps have to be followed.

  1. Notify all Employees of the Company’s intention to declare redundancy. This is to allow for negotiations between the Company and its Employees. The purpose of this notice is to allow the Parties to consider measures to be taken to avert or minimize the terminations and measures to mitigate the adverse effects of any terminations on the workers concerned such as finding alternative employment. Such consultations must be genuine.
  2. Provide grounds for declaring redundancy. Some of these grounds include but are not limited to the Company’s inability to sustain its Employees’ wages and salaries, the Employee’s skills being superfluous to the Company’s needs, the company’s closure of business, the Company’s merger and or acquisition, etc.
  3. Select and notify the Employees affected. This should be done fairly and the Employers should not use such opportunities to get rid of Employees they do not like. The decision to declare them redundant and the reasons thereof should be indicated in their termination letters.
  4. When declaring redundancy, Employers have to note the procedures set out in the Employment Act. Certain stakeholders have to be notified of such decisions. Sec 40 (1) (a) stipulates that if the Employee is a member of a trade union then such union should be notified together with the Labour Officer at least one month before the date of termination on account of redundancies. Where the Employee is not a member of a trade union, sec 40 (1) (b) stipulates that the Employee and Labour Officer be notified personally in writing.
  5. Sec 40 (1) (c) of the Act further provides that Employers have to have due regard as to seniority in time and skill, ability and reliability of each Employee of the particular class of Employees affected by the redundancy. Where there exist two or more Employees to be affected by the redundancy process, then the one who came in later as to employment is essentially the one to go.

The following categories of workers are not covered:

  • Workers under a probationary contract. This contract should not be more than six months. 
  • Workers engaged under a contract of employment for a specified period or specified work.
  • Workers engaged on a casual basis.

In conclusion, due to the recession, most companies are looking at laying off staff to ensure their revenues do not dip, most companies are tight in managing their expenses and the biggest cost is mostly staff-related costs. Most layoffs usually occur in roles that do not generate revenue. 

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