Unite Legal Services secures protective award for redundant members

Unite Legal Services has secured a protective award for our members who were made redundant by an environmental engineering service.

Williams Industrial Services Ltd, went into administration on 6 February 2018. The Unite members involved in this case were immediately made redundant by the joint administrators.

The law states that an employer who is proposing to make 20 or more employees redundant at an “establishment”, within 90 days or less, must consult with them about the potential dismissals. The company involved in this case did not consult their workforce at all.

The members approached Unite Legal Services for assistance in relation to their redundancies and to pursue a tribunal claim about the company’s failure to comply with their legal obligations. As members of Unite, they were able to access legal advice and help at no extra cost.

A tribunal hearing took place on 29 April 2019 and the panel has recently issued its decision. The tribunal said that there was no collective consultation in relation to the dismissals, and that they were sure that the duty to consult was not complied with.

The tribunal also stated that based on the evidence, there were no ‘special circumstances’ which might have justified the company’s failure to comply with the duty to consult employees.

The tribunal granted the maximum protective award of 90 days which effectively means that each of our members who pursued their case to hearing is now entitled to a further 90 days’ pay. At the time of their dismissals, these members were assigned to the “establishment”, which is where the consultation should have taken place.

As the tribunal noted, it is not expected that the company will have sufficient funds to pay the protective award, given that it is in administration.

The Department of the Economy houses the Redundancy Payments Service will cover certain employment-related debts when a company is legally insolvent. As a result, our members will be able to ask the Redundancy Payments Service to pay them a proportion of the 90 days’ pay they were awarded. Subject to certain conditions, the Redundancy Payments Service will cover up to eight weeks of any protective award.

Susan Fitzgerald, the union official who was dealing with this case, said: “The background circumstances of this case were extremely difficult for our members and there were some complex legal issues involved. However, we are happy that Unite Legal Services has obtained a positive outcome for those members whose claims we were able to pursue to the Tribunal hearing.

“Securing the maximum 90-day protective award is an excellent result and should enable the members in question to obtain a further payment from the Redundancy Payments Service.”