Last reviewed 28 July 2020

Employers across the country will be faced with difficult decisions about whether and when to make staff redundant as they face up to difficult trading conditions in the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus lockdown.

A leading trade union has used a case involving former employees of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Italian chain of restaurants to issue a warning to employers faced with the possibility of mass redundancies.

The claimants have been awarded eight weeks of lost wages after an employment tribunal ruled that their employer had failed to consult with them over their redundancies following the collapse of the restaurant group last year.

In total, they will receive £140,000 and Unite has said that it will not hesitate to mount legal challenges against other companies which “flout the consultation process”.

The judge agreed that Jamie’s Italian failed to comply with s.188 of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, which sets out how collective consultation must be carried out.

According to Unite organiser for hospitality, Bryan Simpson, the employees received a 30 minute call to tell them that they had all lost their jobs.

“Let this judgment act as a warning to all those multi-national chains currently pressing ahead with mass redundancies during a pandemic without genuine and meaningful consultation,” he said. “We will be ready and waiting to defend our members interests to ensure they receive what they are entitled to.”

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

Redundancy is a tough process for a lot of employers to undertake even in situations where companies enter administration.

Regardless of this, the correct redundancy procedures should be followed. Just because the company goes out of business does not mean that employers can try to circumvent this.

As seen in this case, staff continue to have rights to a fair redundancy procedure even in situations of this nature, and liability can still be found.