Ex-Harry Fairclough staff win £180K payout following company’s collapse

Simpson Millar represented 61 staff in legal battle against construction company

More than 60 Harry Fairclough employees made redundant when the business collapsed have won their legal battle against the business and secured a payout totalling just over £180k after a tribunal judged that the company had failed in its duty to its staff.

Founded in 1898, the long-standing Warrington-based construction firm closed its doors for the final time in February 2020 resulting in more than 150 job losses, with media reports suggesting ‘late or non-paying customers’ were to blame.

Now, 18 months since the company’s demise, the 61 former employees that Simpson Millar represents are due to receive a pay-out totalling £183,056 after an employment law tribunal found that Harry Fairclough had failed in its legal obligation to formally consult with its staff during the ‘redundancy consultation period’.

The pay-out follows legal action carried out by leading employment law experts at Simpson Millar and comes in the form of a Protective Awards which have been claimed from the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS), which is part of the Governments Insolvency Service.

Damian Kelly, an employment law expert at Simpson Millar, said: “The collapse of Harry Fairclough had a devastating impact on the many employees who were left out of work with very little notice.

“We are delighted to have now secured a Protective Award for those affected, which will provide much needed peace of mind following what has been an incredibly tough year for anyone looking for work within the construction industry.”

Damian explains that a Protective Award is an award of compensation of up to 90 days' gross pay that can be awarded by an Employment Tribunal for failure by an employer to follow the correct procedure when making redundancies.

He said: “While many people assume that job losses are simply inevitable if a business enters into administration, not least in the construction industry given the uncertainties around lockdown regulations during the past year, employers do still have a duty under current employment law legislation to carry out a proper consultation with staff at risk of redundancies.

“When that law is disregarded, it is possible, as Simpson Millar has demonstrated, to hold the company to account through the Employment Tribunals.

“Our clients are grateful for at least some closure to enable them to move forward with their lives and hopefully secure new jobs- many people can’t seem to move on in these difficult situations.”

Simpson Millar also work on behalf of many other clients whose livelihood has suffered due to the job loss across the construction sector.

Damian added: “Sadly we are working on behalf of several thousand clients whose livelihoods have been affected by the turbulence caused by the pandemic over the past year or so.

“Of course, the process to claim for a Protective Award does not result in an influx of cash immediately, and this has been exacerbated by the lengthy delays in the Employment Tribunals nationwide which are also still suffering from the outfall of Covid with a 60% increase in employment law claims as a result of Covid.

“Nevertheless, legal protection remains in place to support people who are made redundant without being taken through the correct consultation process, and the money recovered in successful claims will provide some longer-term security for those affected.”

The RPS is a government funded scheme set up to pay up employees up to a maximum of 8 weeks’ pay in the form of a protective award where an employer has become insolvent and has therefore decided not to properly consult with its employees over inevitable redundancies.

The RPS also pays other funds owed to employees including redundancy pay, arrears of holiday pay and notice pay. However, while these claims can be made by an employee completing an online form, a claim for a Protective Award requires a formal Employment Tribunal Order.

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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.