Clothing retailer T.M. Lewin faces a lengthy legal battle over claims it was required to consult employees before firing them, after an employment tribunal told it to pay out a total of £439,000 to more than 100 of its former staff, lawyers have said.
The comments come after an employment tribunal ruled that T.M. Lewin is liable to pay former staff as much as £4,352 each, over its failure to properly consult its workers, before firing 600 employees in June 2020.
More than one hundred former T.M. Lewin employees could be eligible to receive payouts worth £4,352 each, after 101 workers won a £439,000 lawsuit against the firm.
The employment tribunal ruled in favour of the workers, in stating the formalwear retailer failed to properly consult employees – in line with rules stating companies must carry out a 45-day long consultation period in situations in which they are firing more than 100 employees.
However, lawyers speaking to City A.M. said the ruling may be overturned in higher courts, as they explained that previous case law may fall on T.M. Lewin’s side.
The lawyers explained that T.M. Lewin may be able to overturn the ruling, by arguing that it was not required to consult its staff, as none of its individual stores had enough staff to trigger the consultation requirements.
Emma Bartlett, Partner at CM Murray explained that T.M. Lewin’s decision to close 150 stores without consultation does not necessarily put it on the wrong side of the law, as it is “well established” under case law “that each store is a single establishment”.
Bartlett noted that in treating each store as an individual establishment, T.M. Lewin followed in the footsteps of Woolworths, as she explained that a number of firms – including Littlewoods and Comet – have used the Woolworths model in the past.
Nonetheless, the lawyer said the former workers may instead argue that T.M. Lewin was in fact required to launch a proper consultation, as its stores were organised on a “regional basis,” meaning there were enough workers involved to trigger the consultation requirements.
However, she noted that the workers’ chances are slim, as she noted that two other employment tribunals have previously ruled against other groups of workers arguing their cases on the same facts.