The Woolworths case: a landmark EAT decision on collective redundancies

On 31 May 2013, USDAW (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) and its lawyers published two press releases announcing that they had won a landmark legal case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) that will result in more than 3,000 ex-Woolworths’ staff receiving compensation (in the form of ‘protective awards’) for failure to collectively consult with them prior to their redundancies in 2008. The appeal was against the employment tribunal’s finding that each Woolworths’ store was a separate establishment and, as such, the duty to collectively consult was not triggered in respect of those stores employing less than 20 staff.

The EAT’s written reasons are now awaited. However, from reports so far, this decision is a significant change to the current law. The EAT has indicated that the words ‘at one establishment’ should be totally excised from the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) so that, once it is proposed that 20 or more employees in a single business are to be made redundant, their location is entirely irrelevant. The obligation to collectively consult with all affected employees will be triggered regardless…

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