- Big tech layoffs at Meta, Twitter, Amazon and Snap have laid off thousands of workers worldwide.
- European workers can negotiate softer landings thanks to better health and safety, experts say.
- That can mean better severance pay, more announcements of cuts, and challenges to layoffs.
The layoffs feel endless.
Meta announced another 10,000 job cuts this week, after cutting 11,000 jobs in November, Insider’s Kali Hays and Grace Kay report.
According to layoff tracker Layoffs.fyi, it is estimated that more than 200,000 jobs have been cut at tech companies since early 2022.
Rising interest rates and a tougher economy have fueled job losses over the past year, but it’s Twitter owner Elon Musk who stepped up their speed and brutality with his slash-and-burn cuts in November.
As cuts at Big Tech spread beyond the US, some overseas workers are finding they can fight back thanks to better job protections.
Sinead McSweeney, vice president of Twitter’s Ireland office, successfully applied for a restraining order in November when staff at the office were fired, preventing her impending sacking.
While Twitter had sent out an email asking employees to either accept or resign from “hardcore” terms of employment, McSweeney challenged her firing on the grounds that she was not being treated as an employee due to the mass email became.
A month after her initial sacking, she won a High Court injunction reinstating her employment with Twitter, reported Fortune, the only employee believed to have achieved this. Insider has contacted McSweeney for an update.
Twitter’s US employees have also filed lawsuits challenging the company’s layoffs and severance policies, but to Insider’s knowledge, those have not necessarily prevented cuts.
Until recently, tech workers didn’t have to think too seriously about mass layoffs. More often than not, these companies were desperate to hire talent and keep them from going to the competition, and boosted their pay packages accordingly.
But the scale of the cuts has highlighted an advantage in Europe, where pay is typically lower.
The law offers “much more protection against dismissal than in America,” says Dr. Christopher Jordan, partner at CMS law firm.
—Charmi Trevadia (@charmitrevadia) November 18, 2022
European big tech workers have better job security
“In Europe there are regulations that apply to collective situations, based on European law: the so-called collective redundancies directive,” said Dr. Jordan.
Businesses in Europe largely have to inform their employees in advance that they intend to downsize – meaning shock layoffs, where employees are suddenly locked out of their laptops, are much less likely.
Collective consultations in Europe and the UK mean workers in companies with more than 100 redundancies must be given at least 45 days’ notice. Employers also need to meet with union representatives to discuss ways to minimize layoffs.
This makes terminations without notice “much more complex and expensive” compared to the USA.
European laws differ from country to country and depend “on the size of the company and the number of planned layoffs,” said Freshfields partner David Mendel. But he added: “The obligation to inform and consult workers or workers’ representatives is stronger in Europe than in the US.”
Here’s how some of these geographic differences play out:
Twitter has opted for quick layoffs under Elon Musk in recent months. However, these were married through lawsuits in the US and Europe and public bickering. Musk first promised three months’ compensation for US employees who have been laid off. But in January it was reported that Twitter employees were only being paid one month’s severance pay, according to CNN.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (or WARN) requires US companies to give 60 days’ notice before firing an employee, prompting Twitter to retain some of its initially laid-off workforce. But the WARN Act doesn’t guarantee a minimum base salary, Freshfields’ Mendel said.
Twitter workers in other European hubs like Germany, Spain, Ireland and the UK are also pushing back, with the help of countries’ labor laws and unions.
When Twitter’s Spanish office fired 26 employees via a general email notice, Spain’s Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz called that her department is working to ensure Twitter complies with labor regulations.
According to Dr. Make Jordan a severance offer attractive enough for the employee to accept.
“In some European countries, such as Germany, the following applies: If there is no justification or if a court does not recognize this justification, the termination is ineffective and the employment relationship continues,” said Dr. Jordan to Insider.
Twitter employees in Germany have also worked with the Verdi union to press Twitter for a better severance offer, Fortune reported.
“Where workers are unionized in Europe — and severance plans have been negotiated with unions — severance packages can be significantly higher,” Mendel told Insider.
Twitter didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Facebook parent company Meta announced it would lay off 11,000 employees in December, opting for generous departure packages with a base offer of 16 weeks of severance pay. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to continue health insurance for employees’ families for six months. “We will be offering three months of career support with an outside provider, including early access to unpublished job leads,” Zuckerberg said in a memo to employees.
The memo described the company’s severance process in the US, adding that support outside the US would be broadly similar under local labor laws, where it says it complies with labor laws from country to country.
In Dublin, Ireland, 350 employees were made redundant; In accordance with the bloc’s collective duty of consultation, Meta said the timeline for redundancies would be set by Irish government regulation, according to the impacter.
According to reporter Myles Udland’s accounts, Meta spent $975 million on severance and payroll packages, which works out to about $88,000 per employee.
Meta didn’t give Insiders any further details beyond the shared memo. On Tuesday, the company announced another 10,000 cuts.
When Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, laid off 20% of its employees, Paris-based social location app Zenly, which it acquired in 2017, was shut down.
But French labor laws are stricter than California’s. Unlike the US-based Snap employees, who said they were immediately banned from the company’s work platforms, the French labor authority required Snap to help Zenly employees plan their next job search moves, so The Pragmatic Engineer.
These included measures such as training budgets, relocation packages, financial support for job interviews in France and abroad, business start-up funding and support for outplacement companies, the outlet added.
“The law in France is very strict when it comes to laying off teams — it’s going to take at least a few months,” a Zenly employee told Insider when news of the closure first broke. Zenly’s winding down took at least five months, with the app disappearing from app stores in February.
Despite the additional protections during the settlement phase, Insider’s employee source said Zenly employees were told they could not exercise their stock options.
Snap didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.