Gullivers CG

Former staff of Gulliver’s Truck Hire, which entered into administration last year, have been successful in their claim for compensation after the company failed to properly consult with them.

At a Manchester employment tribunal, the judge said the company had also failed to elect appropriate employee representatives; a failure described as being “of the utmost seriousness”.

The Bristol-based company, which operated a fleet of 3,800 commercial vehicles and employed around 300 staff across seven sites, went into administration on 18 December 2018, owing £16.9m to 680 creditors and £76m to 13 HP funders.

In a written tribunal judgment, Judge Hoey outlined how HMRC issued a demand for payment of £2m in November 2018 for a VAT debt.

Along with mounting losses and cash flow issues, the company was eventually forced to appoint insolvency experts at KPMG.

Communications to staff during this period suggested a positive outcome to “sale opportunities” and no attempt was made to elect a representative, consult with staff or seek their view.

The vast majority of staff were then dismissed on 21 December with some retained up until 29 March 2019.

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Judge Hoey said: “I have taken into account the fact the first respondent decided to appoint specific individuals.

“However, there was no communication with staff as to what this was, nor any communication to those who were appointed as to their role.

“A number of the witnesses stated that had they been given the opportunity the person who had been selected would not have been their choice. The individuals nominated appeared to be senior staff and the operations director was related to the managing director.

“These nominees did not ‘represent’ the relevant staff since the staff were not told what the role was or what was to happen.”

The judge awarded the employees the maximum compensation of 90 days’ pay, although as the company is in administration this is reduced to eight weeks at a maximum of £525 per week.

Nuala Toner, employment law solicitor at Nuala Law, who represented 130 of Gulliver’s former staff, said: “I’m very pleased with the outcome and particularly pleased with the detail covered by the judge.

“His judgment reminds other employers of the importance of employees being given a voice of their choice and that consultation must be timely and genuine.”