Dozens of former workers affected by the collapse of utility firm NMCN who claim that the firm failed to properly consult staff during the redundancy process have now officially taken their claim to an Employment Tribunal.
News that the Nottingham-based company - which specialised in major build environment and critical national infrastructure projects across the UK - had gone into administration broke last year, after it was confirmed that Grant Thornton had been appointed as administrators.
While reports suggested that some divisions of the failed firm were purchased by competitors, around 80 jobs were lost in NMCN’s building division.
National law firm Simpson Millar was later instructed by 26 former employees to pursue a Protective Award on their behalf, after it was claimed that they were made redundant with immediate effect, and that the business had failed to properly consult over the job losses.
The law firm’s employment team has now confirmed that they are waiting for a hearing to be listed, when the claims will be considered by a Judge.
Where an Employment Tribunal finds in the favour of the employees – which includes dozens of people in a number of different roles, including senior managers, administrators, marketeers and on-site construction staff - they will be able to access the funds of up to £4,352 via the Government Insolvency Service.
The latest update in the legal action comes just hours after The Times reported that Directors of NMCN were awarded more than £9 million in the two years leading up to the collapse of the 75-year-old UK-listed construction group, whose demise has triggered a regulatory investigation.
Unsecured creditors of NMCN are also reportedly facing losses of £115 million from the collapse last October.
Anita North, an employment lawyer at Simpson Millar, said: “The collapse of NMCN had a devastating impact on its employees, many of whom were taken completely by surprise when they were told they had been made redundant with no prior warning.
“26 ex-employees later instructed us to investigate the claims that NMCN had failed to properly consult over the job losses, and they have now officially taken their claim to an Employment Tribunal to be heard.
“We are now awaiting a date for a preliminary hearing to take place.”
Last week following the collapse of P&O Ferries, Simpson Millar called on the Government to ‘bare its teeth’ when holding British businesses accountable over a failure to protect employees.
Anita said: “P&O has made headline news because it of its size, and the fact that dozens of docked ferries was such a statement of intent. However, the reality is that thousands of people have been affected by similar redundancy situations over the last few years."
“The consultation must be meaningful, in that the employer must give sufficient information to the affected employees, enabling them to express their views and put forward ideas to avoid or otherwise limit the redundancies.
“In cases where over 100 redundancies are proposed, the period of consultation must last at least 45 days before any dismissals take place and should be undertaken by the employer with a view to seeking agreement with the employee representatives.
“However, over the last year or so we have seen dozens of companies collapse into administration, giving their staff barely, if any, notice of what’s about to happen. In cases such as that they have fundamentally failed in their duty to consult.
“While many employees will be very grateful that they can go on to claim for a Protective Award, they also no doubt want to know what is being done to hold these businesses to account over their blatant disregard of the law.
“Instead of simply picking up the pieces when the damage has been done, the Government needs to do more to bare its teeth when it comes to punishing major, previously profitable businesses who have failed to protect their employees.”
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Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Billingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Catterick, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.