Briefing: Unions must take advantage of Woolworths EAT outcome

05 July 2013 Thompsons Solicitors have written a briefing on the implications of this week's EAT judgement that the 'at one establishment' rule in collective consultations should be ignored.

5 Jul 2013| News

05 July 2013

Thompsons Solicitors have written a briefing on the implications of this week’s EAT judgement that the ‘at one establishment’ rule in collective consultations should be ignored.

As the Institute of Employment Rights reported on Wednesday (03 July 2013), the judgement is likely to have huge consequences for mass redundancies made by large companies.

Woolworths and Ethel Austin both claimed that they were not obliged to collectively consult on mass redundancies occurring in stores where at least 20 people were employed. There argument was held up by the wording of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which states that collective consultations are to be held when 20 or more staff are made redundant ‘at one establishment’. The employers argued that ‘establishment’ meant ‘branch’, and so the thousands of people working in smaller stores were not provided with the 60 days’ pay that their colleagues in large shops were.

Following the EAT’s decision to ignore the ‘at one establishment’ rule, the opportunity has emerged for trade unions to take on large companies and force them to provide payments for each and every one of the staff who lose their jobs following a mass redundancy.

The Thompsons Solicitors briefing below explains the case, its implications, and urges trade unions to take immediate action – even retrospective action.

“As the EAT reinterpreted UK law, this decision applies to previous redundancy exercises,” Neil Todd, author of the briefing, explained.

“On this basis unions should consider checking whether any redundancy exercises that
members have recently been involved in (or indeed are ongoing) should have triggered
collective consultation obligations since there were more than 20 redundancies proposed
across the business as a whole within the period of 90 days or less. If unions become
aware of any such situations then claims for a protective award can still be pursued
provided that they are lodged within 3 months less 1 day from the date of the last
dismissal to take effect,” he said.

Click here to read the briefing