For the last twenty years, TULRA* has set out the rules for consulting with redundant employees. Employers are required to collectively consult where they propose to dismiss 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less.
The EAT recently published its decision concerning the closure of the former Woolworths stores and has held that the words "at one establishment" in TULRA should be ignored. This is because TULRA does not comply with the EU Directive it was intended to implement. The EU Directive does not contain a concept of "at one establishment". The UK has, by including this concept, reduced the employees' EU protection of their rights to consultation.
The Union involved, USDAW, highlighted the ridiculousness of the situation: 21 employees in one Woolworths store were entitled to compensation for lack of consultation, while 19 employees in a store nearby received nothing.
It is likely that the decision will be appealed. In the meantime, once it is proposed that more than 20 employees in a single business are to be made redundant, their location becomes irrelevant, and the duty to collectively consult applies.
In the Woolworths case, over 4000 ex-employees will be entitled to up to 12 weeks’ pay as compensation for failure, on Woolworths’ part, to collectively consult on the redundancies.
*Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992