The 37 staff who were made redundant by Lion Hudson PLC in January have been awarded a payout after the company failed to properly consult with them before they were dismissed.
Over two thirds of Lion Hudson PLC staff were made redundant on 30th January 2017, just before the Oxford-based Christian publisher run by m.d Suzanne Wilson-Higgins went into administration. The assets of company were then sold to the AFD Group in August, and given a new name, Lion Hudson Limited, saving the jobs of the 15 remaining employees.
One of those made redundant, who asked not to be named, told The Bookseller the 37 employees' dismissal without any warning a day before they were due to be paid was a "shock" which led to a very "worrying and stressful" time. Those let go, some with decades of service to the publisher, only received 50% of their January salary, the employee said, with a number forced to turn to the Book Trade Charity for financial help.
Following their dismissal, 30 of the 37 former staff members took Lion Hudson PLC to a tribunal in Reading which ruled the publisher failed to consult with staff prior to their dismissal (contrary to section 188 TULRCA). They were awarded 90-days pay as a result of the firm's "total non-compliance" with the law.
However, staff have been told there is no guarantee of when they will be paid because the company is in administration. Furthermore, the payout is likely to be "minimal" because 35% of each person's sum will go towards solicitors’ legal fees, along with any job seekers' allowance they received during the period in question.
The former employee said staff were “completely shocked” at the extent of the staff cuts in January without due warning or formal consultation. One person affected had almost 30 years' service and another over 20 years’ service, after which it is understood only statutory redundancy pay could be provided.
“I thought at the worst I would have to cut one person from my team," the employee said. I was asked how I might reduce headcount cost by 20% and outline how my team might work. In the end, rather than lose one of my team, only one was retained. It was a shock. And it was not nicely handled at all.
“Given its ethos as a Christian company, it was particularly shocking how it was handled. It was a worrying few months.”
According to the claimants' legal team, the next step is to obtain payment for the 90 days' award from Lion Hudson PLC in administration or, if this isn't possible, from the redundancy payments office.
Lion Hudson PLC's former m.d. Wilson-Higgins declined to comment when asked by The Bookseller, as did its administrators, FRP Advisory, who were appointed early February after the redundancies had taken place.