The European Court of Justice has today handed down its decision in the “Woolworths case” confirming that the obligation to consult collectively in a redundancy situation is only engaged where, in a period of 90 days, 20 or more employees are proposed as redundant at one establishment (being, broadly speaking, a distinct workplace location).

Headaches were caused for employers when, in May 2013, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the relevant domestic legislation (s.188(1) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992) was not compatible with the European Legislation such that the words ‘at one establishment’ should be removed. This meant that the duty to consult collectively arose where an employer proposed, within a 90 day period, to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees across the whole of the employer’s business irrespective of the location of those dismissals.

The ECJ has, however, confirmed that the meaning of ‘establishment’ in the relevant legislation is the “entity to which the workers made redundant are assigned to carry out their duties”. In the present case therefore, each distinct Woolworths store was a separate establishment meaning that the duty to consult collectively with employees did not apply to those stores where 20 or fewer employees were being dismissed.

Today’s decision will be welcome news to multi-site employers.

If you have any questions on the above or would like any assistance with, or guidance on, managing a redundancy process (collective or otherwise), please do not hesitate to contact Matt Huddleson.