Protective Awards

Consultation, consultation, consultation. The worst crimes imaginable can nip under the radar if you only sit your employees down and talk about how terribly dreadful the situation is, but needs must, and what can we do to make the blow easier? Compulsory collective consultation in redundancy situations involving 20 or more job losses has been around for over thirty years, but we still see new developments.

If you, a company, are contemplating making 20+ redundancies at one establishment within ninety days, you have to spend at least 30 days in consultation prior to the first dismissal. If it’s 100+ redundancies, it’s 90 days. Fail to do this, and your employees can apply to the tribunal for a “protective award”. I personally have never understood the term – it’s a fine for non-compliance, nothing less. A protective award = 90 days’ pay. So, let’s say you’re making 25-odd employees redundant, which indicates in itself you haven’t bags of cash lying around, if you don’t give ’em 30 days’ worth of consultation (no matter how little effect it might have on the final result) then you cop for 90 days’ pay to each of them. What’s that? 90 days? But we were only supposed to consult for 30! Tough. It’s a fine. You should have done it properly. This idea, following Susie Radin in 2004 which finally clarified the award as punitive, has been backed up by the EAT. This particular case has been notified all over the employment news-o-sphere, but I suspect it’s simply the first cock-up to be appealed rather than any shift in practice for most tribunals.

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