High Speed 2 has appointed former Post Office group people director Neil Hayward to head up its human resources team in the wake of an outcry over the train company’s approval of cap-busting redundancy packages for dozens of staff.
Hayward succeeds former HR director Peter Gregory at the Department for Transport owned company, which is tasked with delivering the new high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham and beyond.
Last month HS2 head of finance Steve Allen announced that he was resigning from the company following further revelations about unauthorised redundancy payments totalling £2.76 made to staff at the firm, a figure £1.7m above the amount authorised by DfT
Allen told a Public Accounts Committee hearing that he felt the move had been necessary because teams under his authority had “ended up misleading the executive and the board” at HS2 over the enhanced redundancy packages paid to 94 staff, which had busted the civil service’s £95,000 cap.
The Department for Transport gave written permission for a scheme as part of the organisation’s decision to transfer its headquarters from London to Birmingham, but stated redundancy terms should only be set at statutory levels, not in line with the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. This was in order to provide a package appropriate to the rail sector.
However, the PAC hearing was told that a 2016 e-mail from a senior official at DfT insisting this limit observed rather than an "enhanced" HS2 package had only been seen by then-HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby, and that the information had not been shared. Kirby left the company at the end of last year to take up a new role as chief operating officer at aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce.
Allen said: “The remuneration committee and, indeed, the board and the executive were all briefed by the HR director that the department had given its approval to the enhanced scheme, and so proceeded on the basis that the scheme was authorised.
“Of course, that turned out to be incorrect, but the board and the executive proceeded on the basis that, as they were briefed by the HR director, the scheme was authorised because it had been agreed by the department.”
Current HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston told the session that he had started work at the company in March this year and two months later reached an agreement with the then-HR director that he “would not be part of the future of the organisation”.
Thurston said the HR director had now left the company “without redundancy”.
Gregory was not mentioned by name at the session and his departure from HS2 has never been formally announced by the firm. His LinkedIn profile details that he was HR director at HS2 from March 2011 to October 2017. His successor, Neil Hayward, is due to start in post today.
Announcing the appointment, HS2 said Hayward had more than 20 years’ experience of working in “large and complex organisations”, including BT, the Ministry of Justice and Serco Group.
It said that in his most recent role at the Post Office, Hayward had been part of the team that restored the company to profit under public ownership after some years of significant losses.
Thurston said: “Neil’s “experience in defining and implementing change at FTSE 100 and 250 companies, and in central government will be extremely valuable as we transition from a development company to one delivering Britain’s new national high speed rail network.”