Norwegian Airlines is regarded by those who work there to be a good airline to work for. However, they have found a novel way to avoid UK employment law protections by recruiting their pilots through two different companies. We understand that the company insists on pilots working their way the through two companies before they potentially achieve full employment rights.
Initial recruitment is to and through a company called Rishworth Aviation. The contracts that Rishworth offer pilots are for three years. The pilots Norwegian are happy with may then be offered permanent employment through a company called OEM. By structuring their recruitment in this way, Norwegian is at very little risk of being challenged on anything in a UK employment tribunal as in many cases a claim cannot be brought until the employee has completed two years’ service.
In the first two years with Norwegian, employed on a contract through Rishworth, you are not protected from redundancy, unfair dismissal, etc save in a case where discrimination on one of the defined legal grounds is a factor which is proved. After two years employees can bring a claim to a tribunal but as most pilots will have an eye to the future and will not want to rock the boat such that they are not offered a contract with OEM, there is little or no chance that they would be inclined to make a complaint in their third year of employment.
By moving the employee to a new contract with a different company (OEM) after three years the employee must work another two full years before they acquire the right to initiate action in any tribunal. Therefore, Norwegian pilots will be in difficulty trying to obtain any legal protection in the UK courts for the first five years of their employment with Norwegian. Depending upon the structure of the contract, Norwegian may avoid any liability with all claims being against Rishworth/OEM as the ‘employer’.
We at the IPA believe this is unacceptable and an unethical manipulation of employment relationships to avoid giving the protections that any employee deserves. It creates unease and does nothing to foster a heathy and happy working atmosphere. Employees need to be assured that they work for companies that abide by the rules not avoid them. Given that Norwegian Airlines is regarded as a good employer it is surprising that they have chosen to structure their business in this way.
If you are a Norwegian Pilot working in either Norway or any other European country and want to discuss matters with us on a confidential basis, please call our office on 01444 441149 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org