Woolworths case: "establishment" wording in TULRCA collective redundancy provisions must be disregarded (EAT)

Woolworths case: "establishment" wording in TULRCA collective redundancy provisions must be disregarded (EAT)

The EAT has overturned a tribunal's decision that Woolworths' employees, who worked in stores where fewer than 20 employees were employed, were not entitled to be consulted collectively under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

The collective consultation obligations in TULRCA apply where an employer is proposing to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less. For some time, it has been acknowledged that the words "at one establishment" in section 188(1) of TULRCA are incompatible with the underlying EU Collective Redundancies Directive. However, the UK courts have previously been unwilling to adopt a purposive interpretation to rectify this discrepancy.

Now, the EAT has ruled that the words "at one establishment" are to be disregarded for the purposes of any collective redundancy involving 20 or more employees. This is a significant change to the law. Once it is proposed that at least 20 employees in a single business are to be made redundant in a 90-day period, their place of work will be irrelevant for the purposes of triggering the information and consultation obligations. (USDAW v Ethel Austin Ltd (in administration) and another case UKEAT/0547/12; 0548/12.)


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