Last year we reported on the Woolworths/Ethel Austin case which you will no doubt recall involved the meaning of ‘establishment’ for triggering collective redundancy consultations.
We reported that the European Court had ruled that the ‘establishment’ is the entity to which employees are assigned to carry out their duties. We have since been waiting for the matter to come back to the UK for the UK Court of Appeal to give its final say on the point in the light of the European ruling and we now have further news.
We have learnt that the Court of Appeal has confirmed that the UK position is consistent with the European ruling and, as expected, that each Woolworths store was indeed a separate establishment.
We understand that, slightly unusually, no hearing actually took place in the Court of Appeal and that the matter was dealt with by consent of the parties to the case.
So the position is now much clearer – collective consultation is triggered when numbers reach 20 or more redundancies within a 90-day period at the particular site or location where an employee carries out their work.
Because the Woolworths appeal was concluded by consent of the parties, we have not had the perhaps useful guidance that we might have been looking for from the UK Court of Appeal, but in any event we believe that the position has been resolved to a large extent. There will still be some situations which give rise to a bit of uncertainty where advice will be needed but generally, most situations will be clear allowing employers to be much more certain about their collective consultation obligations where large scale redundancies are proposed.