More than 400 former Debenhams staff who lost their jobs after the company went into administration have won their legal battle against the business after a tribunal judge ruled that it had failed in its duty to consult with its staff.
News that the former high street giant was in difficulties hit the headlines in April 2020, with the company later confirming that it was to close all of its branches.
Following the announcement more than 800 affected staff instructed employment law experts at Simpson Millar to pursue legal action on their behalf, amidst claims that they were not consulted correctly and redundancy consultation processes were not followed.
Earlier this month, the Employment Tribunal found in favour of the first 419 claimants, with a judge ruling that Debenhams had failed in its duty to consult with staff at risk of redundancy.
Lawyers representing the workers say the value of the claim is now being calculated and is expected to be in the region of £860k.
Simpson Millar’s Amanda McKinley confirmed the Employment Tribunal has started issuing judgment in batches based on claim location and that this settlement relates to claims based in Oxford Street, London. The firm is also representing a further 475 clients who are bringing a Protective Award claim against Debenhams, and final judgments are awaited for these claimants.
Commenting on the case Amanda said: “We are delighted to have now received the first judgment in relation to the Protective Award claim on behalf of a significant number of our clients who were affected by redundancies when Debenhams entered into administration in 2020.
“In this case the employment tribunal Judge has ruled that the retailer failed in its duty under UK employment law legislation to carry out proper consultation with staff at risk of redundancies, and the outcome of the legal action now paves the way to secure a payout in the form of a protective award for our clients which is expected to be in the region of £860k.”
Amanda explains that a Protective Award claim is claimed from the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS), which is part of the Government Insolvency Service.
The RPS is a government funded scheme set up to pay up employees up to a maximum of 8 weeks’ pay in the form of a protective award where an employer has become insolvent and has been found not to have properly consulted with its employees over subsequent redundancies.
The RPS pays other funds owed to employees including redundancy pay, arrears of holiday pay and notice pay. However, while these claims can be made by an employee completing an online form, a claim for a Protective Award requires a formal Employment Tribunal Judgment.
Amanda confirmed: “As a result of the employment tribunal judgments our clients will now be compensated by up to 90 days’ gross pay, albeit capped at £4,304 given that the company is insolvent.
“The National Insurance Fund which employees pay into is a lifebelt for many people who find themselves in such circumstances, and in this instance our clients are delighted that the matter is now coming to a close so that they can finally move forward with their lives.”