Woolworths case referred to Europe

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It has been reported that the Woolworths case, which last year  significantly changed the rules relating to collective redundancy consultation has been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The Court of Appeal hearing was listed for 21 and 22 January 2014. It is reported that the Court ruled that the case should be referred to the ECJ. The questions to be decided by the ECJ are being agreed between the parties. Because of the current uncertainty in collective consultation law for affected employers, the Court of Appeal is reportedly seeking an expedited hearing in the ECJ. Otherwise there could be a wait of around 18 months before the outcome is known.

For the time being, employers will need to look at the number of  redundancies proposed across their sites within a period of 90 days or less, not just "at one establishment", when considering whether the collectively redundancy consultation provisions are triggered.

This also includes collective dismissals which are not redundancies – for example, dismissing staff and re-engaging them on new terms of employment. If the 20-employee threshold is reached, failure to comply with collective consultation provisions can prove very expensive, with a potential penalty of up to 90 days' actual pay per employee affected.