Former Debenhams workers win £350,000 in legal battle over layoffs

Former employees have claimed they were told their careers were ending in text messages and Zoom calls the same day the company went out of business, resulting in the loss of 18,000 jobs.

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Former Debenhams workers declare strike in 2021

Former Debenhams workers have won a £350,000 legal battle for not being made aware of the chain’s collapse before it was made public.

Debenhams closed all of its stores in January 2021 after admitting bankruptcy, prompting 18,500 job cuts.

Employees at the time complained that they were told their careers were ending in text messages and Zoom calls the same day the company went out of business.

Some say they were informed of their layoffs via “a scripted phone call from the store manager” or a video call.

Law firm Thompsons have taken legal action after Debenhams failed to give workers 30 days notice.

Debenhams went into administration for the last time just before Christmas


Andy Commins/Daily Mirror)

An employment tribunal has now ruled in favor of the workers and ordered around eight weeks of work to be paid to affected staff.

The big bill will be funded by taxpayers’ money, as Debenhams is no longer trading.

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“The Debenhams case is a typical, and unfortunately all too common, example of a company failing in its duty to collectively consult with its employees before firing them,” said Paul Kissen, a lawyer for Thompsons employment team. .

The chain’s online arm was sold to Boohoo in January for £55m, although all physical stores have now closed – with almost all jobs lost.

The liquidation left Debenhams one of the biggest street casualties since Woolworths disappeared in 2009 – and the biggest retail loss of the pandemic.

Debenhams filed for administration during the pandemic and was sold soon after for £55million


Darren Quinton/Birmingham Live)

Debenhams, opened in Wigmore Street, London in 1778.

Two years before its collapse, the company announced its biggest pre-tax loss of £491million and the closure of up to 50 stores putting 4,000 jobs at risk as it tried to manage its mounting debt.

Debenhams fell into the hands of its lenders, a group of banks and hedge funds led by US firm Silver Point Capital and in April 2020 it entered the market.

At the time, the company had lost £323m in the six months to October, compared to billions at its peak.

This week, former workers at Debenhams stores in Ireland endorsed a severance deal after launching a 400-day protest to demand a fairer redundancy plan.

The pay deal covers 2,000 former workers from 11 stores.

Without warning, Debenhams closed its 11 Irish stores in April last year amid the first Covid lockdown, resulting in the loss of around 2,000 jobs.

The ex-workers, who received only their legal entitlements from their social insurance, claimed they were fired by email, without notice and without dismissal after decades of service in many cases.

They claim the UK-based retailer breached the terms of a 2016 agreement to pay workers two weeks of statutory redundancy plus two weeks of gratuity, per year of service, in the event of redundancy.

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