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S188 of the Trade Union And Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) provides that an employer must collectively consult where it proposes to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at a single establishment.

If it fails to do so each employee may be entitled to a protective award of up to 90 days gross pay.

This limitation in TULCRA meant that often collective consultation requirements were not triggered where (for example) a business had a chain of stores where in each individual shop, less than 20 employees were made redundant.

In Usdaw v Ethel Austin Limited (in administration) and another (known as Woolworths case), the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that TULRCA was inconsistent with the EU directive and the limitation of ‘single establishment’ should be disregarded.

This means that when looking at collective consultation requirements, the whole business needs to be looked at not just the individual locations where the employees were based.

The Woolworths case is subject to an appeal.

In the meantime, The Industrial Tribunal in Belfast has asked the EU Court of Justice to interpret the meaning of ‘establishment’ under EU law so that it can determine whether this term refers exclusively to an individual work unit or can consist of more than one unit. The decision should give some clarity to this area of law. See report

Sarah Rushton (

This is intended for general information only and should not be considered as giving advice in relation to any individual case nor be taken as applying to any particular case. No liability is accepted for any such use of the information contained.


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