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Unlawful sacking: Taxpayer faces £10 million wage compensation bill for ex-workers of failed retailer Comet

Retail union Usdaw secures pay-out for 6,000 workers left in the lurch by administration

Taxpayers were landed with a £10 million bill yesterday to compensate workers unlawfully sacked from failed electrical retailer Comet.

The staggering amount strengthened voices calling for changes in the law to stop the public picking up the tab for bungling businesses.

More than 6,000 workers lost their jobs when the firm collapsed in 2012 as administrators Deloitte shut 185 stores and distribution centres.

Staff and their unions were entitled to a 90-day consultation period or the equivalent in wages but received neither.

A Leeds employment tribunal ruled that the workers were sacked unlawfully, meaning the compensation bill falls on the taxpayer, not the employer or the administrator.

Around 2,500 workers represented at the tribunal are entitled to compensation of eight weeks wages, capped at a maximum £450 a week.

Institute of Employment Rights director Carolyn Jones said: “Once again taxpayers will pick up the bill for bad employment practices by ruthless employers.

“The law needs to be changed. It’s not just workers who need protecting from these people — it’s the taxpayer as well. The employers are flouting the law and we pay for it.”

She challenged the right-wing Taxpayers’ Alliance over the issue.

“Where are they when big business is ripping off the taxpayer?” she asked.

Comet workers’ union Usdaw led the charge at the employment tribunal.

General secretary John Hannett said: “Yet again the taxpayer will have to pick up the bill for what is owed to sacked staff because administrators deliberately flouted the law.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful that companies can get away with this sort of tactic in the 21st century.”

He said the staff had suffered 18 months of waiting and uncertainty about compensation — on top of the shock of losing their livelihoods.

Mr Hannett said: “This area of law requires review because it is riddled with injustices for both workers and taxpayers and is stacked in favour of the financial and business sector.

The government needs to end the perverse financial incentive for employers and administrators not to comply with legal obligations on collective redundancy consultation.”


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