Bluebird: Tweeting from the same Hymn Sheet

At the end of April we reported on the Woolworths and Ethel Austin cases, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) seeking to clarify the term 'establishment' in connection with collective redundancies.

The Belfast Industrial Tribunal has also had cause to consider the same issue in the case of Lyttle and Ors v Bluebird UK Bidco 2 Ltd, the matter arising from the closure of some Bonmarché retail outlets across the United Kingdom in 2012.

Following suit

Familiarly, the point of law referred by the Belfast Industrial Tribunal to the ECJ was this.

Is a single retail store capable of being an 'establishment' for collective redundancy consultation purposes?

The ECJ has confirmed, in short, that yes, it is. Akin to the findings of the ECJ last month, the court has confirmed that it is the entity to which the workers made redundant are assigned to carry out their duties that constitutes the 'establishment'.

A repeat of the good news story

The ECJ has again endorsed the position which most employers have adopted over the course of this saga.

As is the ECJ's function, the court focused on the EU's objective of providing comparable cost burdens across Member States. Should the position of the first instance courts be upheld, businesses within the United Kingdom would be subject to crippling costs in relation to informing and consulting with the workforce, at an already economically challenging time.

Thus, the scope of the collective consultation has been narrowed, and the point of law clarified for a second time in a matter of months.

For further information please contact a member of our Employment team, A&L Goodbody Northern Ireland.

Date published: 18 May 2015