Unite press release

For immediate release: Wednesday 26 October 2022

Unite slams fire & rehire by occupational therapists’ union

Workers given just 3 days to make life changing redundancy decision or accept new jobs on worse terms

Stressed workers forced to seek the very services that the Royal College of Occupational Therapists champion

Workers do not rule out Industrial action

Bosses at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (see notes to editors) must scrap their callous redundancies, negotiate with Unite or face the consequences, including possible industrial action.

On Monday 17 October the College which is registered as a union, informed its staff that it was placing 1 in 10 workers at risk of redundancy. Astoundingly, the College gave the workers just 3 full days to decide whether to take a poor redundancy package or apply for other jobs on worse terms. Workers who unsuccessfully apply for alternative employment will be forced out on statutory redundancy terms. Unite is just weeks away from signing a formal recognition deal with the College (see notes to editors).

Some Unite members at the College have sought support from psychologists and therapists to cope with the sheer shock and stress of being forced into a life changing redundancy situation at break-neck speed. Occupational therapists are champions of workplace wellbeing and the College is acting in direct opposition to the principles of its profession.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “A registered union is disgracefully using fire and rehire to attack its own workers. It’s rank hypocrisy from a union that champions workplace well-being. The stress that workers are under is cause enough for them to seek therapy themselves. You could hardly make this up.

“The Royal College must immediately scrap this redundancy process and negotiate with Unite. The workers have their union’s full support and we leave all options on the table to support our members."

The workers represent occupational therapists at work. Others do a range of roles including, administration, finance and policy. Some are occupational therapists themselves, who are also members of the College.

Unite regional officer Matthew Freeman said: “Rather than negotiate with Unite, the Royal College would rather drop its principles and act like some of the worst employers around. The College has put its loyal staff under tremendous stress and pressure. This smacks of anti-union behaviour just weeks before Unite signs a recognition agreement.

“We even have some members seeking counselling because of the toll this announcement is having on their mental health. The College faces considerable reputational damage if it presses ahead and Unite will not hesitate to use its considerable firepower to support its members."


Notes to editors

The College have placed 10% of staff at risk of redundancy. They have been given 3 days at the start of the consultation to make a decision about staying or going, with no time to take legal advice, engage with or critique the proposals. 

The workers had to indicate their interest in voluntary redundancy or a different job by midday Friday 21 October. They had the weekend to complete their job applications, with interviews on Tuesday (25 October) and a decision on Wednesday. Workers opting for VR have to sign a non- disclosure agreement by Monday 31st October.

In 1978 the British Association of Occupational Therapists became a registered trade union in line and set up the College of Occupational Therapists (COT), a registered charity, to deal with the organisation's professional, educational and research business.

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists. has 35,000 members. https://www.rcot.co.uk/node/4926. An occupational therapist helps people of all ages overcome challenges completing everyday tasks or activities – or ‘occupations’.


It’s a science-based, health and social care profession that’s regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.” https://www.rcot.co.uk/about-occupational-therapy/what-is-occupational-therapy