More than 600 Debenhams workers who have lost their jobs since the High Street giant announced it was in difficulties earlier this year are to take legal action against the firm, including dozens of people from London Stores.
The announcement comes four months after the business collapsed into administration and follows announcements that thousands of jobs were to be cut after sales were impacted by the coronavirus lockdown.
Since April, national law firm Simpson Millar says it has been contacted by hundreds of employees, and has begun investigations to enable appropriate legal action to be brought in order to secure a Protective Award on their behalf for the company’s failure to properly consult staff regarding the mass redundancies.
The firm has also set up a Debenhams Eligibility Checker which allows employees to see whether they can claim.
Deana Bates, an employment law expert at the firm, said: “The current situation is making it difficult for many companies across most industries and it is no surprise that retail giants – and particularly those that are so reliant on High Street or shopping centre footfall – are being significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sadly, the closure of certain stores and HQ job cuts has left many employees out of work with little or no notice, at a time when it’s going to be very challenging to find alternative work.
“However, while some companies are struggling because of the pandemic, they still have a duty under current employment law legislation to carry out a proper consultation with staff at risk of redundancies. Where that does not happen, employees can bring a claim for a Protective Award.”
Deana explains that a Protective Award is a payment awarded by an Employment Tribunal in cases where an employer fails to follow the correct procedure when making 20 or more redundancies and, where an Employment Tribunal finds in the favour of the employees, they will be able to access the funds via the Government Insolvency Service.
Simpson Millar’s leading employment law team is currently instructed by former employees affected by the collapse of a number of well-known businesses including Thomas Cook, Mothercare, Bathstore and Jamie’s Italian. Last year, the firm announced that it had secured payments on behalf of 103 ex-Mutiyork staff amounting to £300k.
Deana added: “When people are made redundant the first thing they normally do is look for another job, but in the current climate new jobs are very rare, so people are having to prioritise taking measures like applying for universal credit and mortgage holidays in order to be able to survive financially.
“While the process to claim for a Protective Award will not result in an influx of cash immediately, legal protection remains in place to support people who are made redundant without being taken through the correct consultation process, and the money recovered in successful claims will provide some longer term security for those affected.”