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Debenhams: Tribunal rules in favour of redundant employees due to neglected consultation obligations

In a recent development, a tribunal judge has ruled in favour of 419 former Debenhams employees who were made redundant following the collapse of the retailer. The judge concluded that Debenhams had neglected its duty to consult with its staff, resulting in this legal victory for the affected individuals.

It is of course important for businesses to be aware of their obligations regarding collective consultation before making redundancies.

By law, businesses must engage in collective consultation if they are planning 20 or more redundancies within a 90-day period, in one establishment. It is crucial to note that this applies to the specific establishment affected, rather than the entire organisation. It’s not clear why such a large organisation got this wrong here, but the fact that each claimant was awarded the maximum amount of compensation suggests that Debenhams didn’t meet any of its collective consultation responsibilities.

The rise in the number of home workers may also be relevant. Employers may need to consider employees who work from home/remotely as potentially working within one establishment, triggering the duty to collectively consult about proposed job losses. We expect to see cases on this issue in the coming years.

Collective consultation allows the employer and representatives to engage in open communication, exchange of ideas, and try to find alternative solutions to redundancy.

In addition to collective consultation, businesses should also engage in individual consultations with affected employees. This provides an opportunity for personalised discussions, understanding individual scores, and addressing specific concerns.

By adhering to both collective and individual consultation practices, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to fair and responsible decision-making processes. This not only helps to comply with legal obligations but also fosters a positive working environment and maintains trust between employers and employees.

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A total of 419 former Debenhams employees who were made redundant following the retailer’s collapse have won a legal battle after a tribunal judge ruled Debenhams had “failed in its duty to consult with its staff”.

Debenhams announced the closure of all its stores in December 2020

Debenhams hit the headlines in April 2020 when it was revealed the former high street retailer was struggling and later confirmed the closure of its branches that December.”