Cheryl Cole’s Return To X Factor ‘Puts Key Employment Issues In Spotlight’

Legal Expert Examines Advantages And Pitfalls Of Rehiring Old Staff

11.03.2014

Simon Cowell’s decision to ask Cheryl Cole to return to The X Factor as a judge has put a spotlight on the issue of rehiring former employees and some of the issues which need to be considered when doing so, according to an employment law specialist.

Initial tweets from both Cowell and Cole regarding the news that the former Girls Aloud star was rejoining the hit talent show for its 11th series have been confirmed by ITV, with commentators suggesting the move may have been taken to boost ratings.

Cole left the series in 2010 after three years to take up a position on the US version of the show, but was subsequently dropped. The issue led to her gaining an undisclosed payout from the producers in relation to lost earnings.

Despite the relationship between the singer and Cowell reportedly deteriorating as a result, the pair are known to have reconciled since then.

According to Glenn Hayes, a Partner and specialist in employment law at Irwin Mitchell, the news demonstrates that the rehiring of former employees can offer very clear advantages to employers – but warned they should also bear in mind a number of potential pitfalls.

Expert Opinion
Whilst for some the idea of returning to an old job may not always be the most attractive idea, it is not uncommon for people to take such a step or for employers to call on ex-workers for their help in boosting a business, particularly where that employee has acted in good faith and diligently when leaving the organisation.

"In general, this offers plenty of advantages. For example, an organisation saves on the cost of going through the recruitment process and also on the management time needed to train and develop the skills of the recruit.

"It also provides less uncertainty to an employer, who will know exactly what they are getting in terms of performance and ability. In Cheryl’s case, it is difficult to argue against the fact that her return to the show will prove – at least initially – to be a ratings hit for ITV due to how popular she was on her previous stint.

"However, the latter point also links to one of the potential disadvantages of the rehiring an old employee. Success is not always guaranteed on a person’s return to a job, no matter how popular they are or were. It is worth remembering there are plenty of examples in football where club legends have been hired as managers on a wave of goodwill from fans, only to fail to meet both their expectations and those of the Board.

"In addition, while this is probably not applicable in terms of Cheryl’s case, there may have been a particularly valid reason for their original departure. What are the chances of the same issue “rearing its head” a few months down the line?

"Also, the existing workforce may also have strong views on the decision – for instance if there have been grudges between the person in question and their colleagues. The original departure of that person may have led to the airing of strong views on them, so their return could cause issues in terms of staff relationships?"
Glenn Hayes, Partner

Glenn added also that with so many issues to bear in mind, employers need to think carefully about how they can mitigate the potential risks.

Expert Opinion
Whilst it can be seen as an “easy win” to rehire an old member of staff, it is clear there is much to think about.

"Certain measures which could be considered may be offering shorter notice periods in case of potential problems, as well as also making use of a probationary period for the close monitoring of how the person has reintegrated into the workforce.

"It could also be wise to test the water in terms of what other employees think about that person. The discrete canvassing of opinions is key in this regard, purely to ensure that welcoming that member of staff back into the fold is not going to upset the current status quo.

"Steps like this will give employers some protection and idea as to whether they are making the right move. In Cheryl’s case, she will most likely be on a fixed term contract and, if matters work in a similar manner to her US experiences, she may also be entitled to compensation in the form of the balance of that agreement due to loss of earnings. Simon Cowell will be hoping that she repeats her success in the UK however and this will not be necessary."
Glenn Hayes, Partner