In the case of Mr C Constandinou and Mr T Kakkoufa v Supadance International Ltd and Others: 3200222/2016 and 3200230/2016, the Employment Tribunal held that the dismissals of the Claimants were both unfair and discriminatory (due to their age), awarding them cumulatively a sum of almost £80,000 in compensation.
The facts in Mr C Constandinou and Mr T Kakkoufa v Supadance International Ltd and Others
Mr Constandinou and Mr Kakkoufa (“the Claimants”) were employed by Supadance International Ltd (Supadance), a business that specialises in the production and sale of specialist ballroom dancing shoes, and were long-standing employees (having, respectively 25 years’ and 41 years’ service respectively). Mr and Mrs Free were, respectively, Chairman and Managing Director of Supadance.
In 2014 Supadance experienced a drop in sales and in April 2015 Mr and Mrs Free decided to make redundancies in order to address the profitability of the business. In April 2015 there was a meeting at Mr Constandinou’s house which Mr Antoniou (General Manager) and the Claimants attended. This meeting was recorded covertly by the Claimants. In the meeting Mr Antoniou stated that it was probable that the Claimants would be made redundant as they were high earners and that they were being talked about by Mr and Mrs Free as being first on the list for redundancies. The following comments were also made by Mr Antoniou in the meeting:
- “the other thing as well when we put these five people forward we think they are not going to turn around and say why aren’t you sacking the older ones”
- “if they are looking at the future another five or ten years in front really is the older ones that goes”
On 25 May 2015 Mr Neo Constandinou, Mr Constandinou’s son, was in the car with Mr Antoniou and there was a discussion between the two. Neo Constandinou stated that Mr Antoniou compared the factory’s workforce to a football team and said old workers like old football players need to leave so that it could bring in new blood otherwise the team would not be efficient.
On 18 August 2015 the Claimants were called to a further meeting in which they were informed that they were being made redundant. Again, this meeting was recorded. There was no prior notification provided to the Claimants that they were at risk of redundancy, and the transcript of the meeting made it clear that Mr and Mrs Free had been actively involved in the decision to make them redundant. In that meeting the Claimants asked what they were supposed to live on now and were, in return, asked by Mrs Free whether they could draw a pension yet. The Claimants worked their 12-week notice period to November 2015.
The Claimants subsequently brought claims in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, direct age discrimination, and holiday pay.”
The decision of the Employment Tribunal (ET)
The Employment Tribunal upheld the Claimants’ claims for unfair dismissal and direct age discrimination.
The Employment Tribunal held that the Claimant’s dismissal was for the reason of redundancy, but that their dismissal was unfair – there had been no procedure followed, no consultation, and no consideration of alternatives.
Direct age discrimination
The Employment Tribunal drew inferences that the Claimants’ dismissals may have been discriminatory from the following facts: Mr Antinou’s comments in April 2015 and May 2015, Mr Free’s pensions remark in August 2015, and Mrs Free’s evidence suggesting that she regarded previous redundancies as retirements. The Employment Tribunal further held that at least part of the reason for the way in which the Claimants had been treated was their age, and that there was no suitable alternative explanation to the way they had been treated.
The Employment Tribunal awarded the Claimants a total 0f £74,023.51, divided as follows:
- Mr Constandinou: £33,647.68 (comprised of £20,583.84 in respect of injury to feelings and £13,063.84 in respect of financial loss)
- Mr Kakkoufa: £40,375.83 (comprised of £20,583.84 in respect of injury to feelings and £17,446.40 in respect of financial loss)
Our solicitors’ views on the case of in Mr C Constandinou and Mr T Kakkoufa v Supadance International Ltd and Others
Chris Hadrill, the partner in the employment department at Redmans, made the following comment on the case: “Employers should ensure that they undertake fair, reasonable, and reasoned redundancy processes – a failure to do so can be costly, as in this case.”