Mary Wightman, Dave Austin, Stuart Finney, Kris Kubat, Andrew Rathbone and Darren Meigh lost their jobs at Downes and Williamson Limited (formerly located at Hot Lane Industrial Estate) after the joinery firm suddenly closed in July 2013 and relocated to Leigh, near Wigan. The six workers subsequently made Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal, believing that the firm had failed to adequately consult with them prior to its decision to close its site near Birmingham and move to Wigan.
The Employment Tribunal took place earlier this month at Birmingham Employment Tribunal, with the six employees giving evidence. Ms Wightman, who had worked for 28 years with the company, stated that she had been called by one of the directors of the company whilst she was on holiday in Torquay and told that the firm had no money to pay her wages. She further said that the workers had all been called to a meeting five days later and told that they were to be made redundant. The directors for Downes and Williamson Limited failed to attend the Tribunal and the Employment Tribunal ruled in the six workers’ favour, holding that their dismissal had been unfair as the firm had failed to adequately consult with them prior to making them redundant. The Tribunal awarded the six workers their redundancy payments, ranging from a £7,150 payment to Mrs Wightman to a £4,785 payment to Mr Austin, plus unpaid wages and holiday pay.
Mr Austin stated after the Employment Tribunal: “In all my 38 years of working, I have never been treated like this by a company. I have been working as a joiner for 16 years since I left school and it is all I have ever known. Since we were told we didn’t have a job, we have heard nothing from the company or its directors. The whole thing has been so stressful but we don’t believe it is over until we actually get our pay-out.”
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Employers have an obligation under the Employment Rights Act 1996 to undertake redundancies in a fair manner and must consult adequately with their staff if they’re thinking about making redundancies. A failure to do so – as here – can lead to potentially expensive litigation and compensation awards.”