NETWORK RAIL this week denied that it had banned redundant engineers from working in the railway industry, but confirmed that it had warned suppliers that it 'preferred' they did not re-employ them for two years.
It added that while it could not force other employers not to take on certain people, it believed that its policy of keeping these engineers out of the industry was in the best interests of an efficient railway.
'It does not make financial sense to re-employ somebody who has just received a generous redundancy package - whether directly or indirectly, ' said Network Rail in a statement to NCE.
'Network Rail cannot under employment law tell other companies who it can or cannot employ, ' it added.
'What we have said to our suppliers is that we would prefer them not to employ people we have made redundant'.
The statement followed revelations in NCE last week that Network Rail was imposing two year industry work bans on engineers it had recently made redundant. The policy has been in place since November.
Employment lawyers agreed that while it was illegal for employers to restrict who employees could work for, they told NCE that there was nothing illegal about Network Rail's stated policy.
However the reality of how the policy was enforced, they added, was questionable.
'Network Rail is treading a fine line, ' said Lovells employment lawyer John Keith. 'Its policy isn't open to legal challenge as it stands but if it's a case that 'if you want this work, you can't use these people' then it becomes a real issue.'
Two chartered civil engineers, with a total of 60 years experience between them, have told NCE how they have been unable to find work in the railways following redundancy last November.
One 49-year-old civil engineer became aware of the policy when he was re-employed by consultant Scott Wilson but was laid off on Network Rail's request (NCE last week).
'I was told by Scott Wilson that it was no reflection on my ability, but because of this two-year-ban, ' said the engineer, pointing out that his severance pay was rapidly running out.
A second civil engineer with 35 years experience on the railways and currently applying for ICE fellowship, said he only found out about the policy after reading NCE last week.
Network Rail suggested that the redundant engineers could seek work with 'other rail, light rail, metro, underground organisations'.