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The Body Shop? Or The Body Chop?

March 29, 2024

What Happened:

The beloved Body Shop has recently come under fire for their mass-sacking over Microsoft Teams, as 270 head office staff were made redundant followed by a further 489 job losses and 75 store closures.

There is no doubt that there was a breach of employment law. Not only did they fail to carry out any redundancy consultation, but the employees weren’t paid beyond the end of the day.   The company stated that they would not provide them with any form of redundancy payment. Instead, the ex-employees were encouraged to claim unpaid wages and holiday pay from the Redundancy Payments Service. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that, even without walking past the shop and getting wafts of ‘floral moringa’ and ‘spiced pink grapefruit,’ something stinks.

As victims of the ‘Body Chop’ embarked on an email campaign, the administrators reluctantly admitted that they didn’t follow ‘normal regulations’ when it came to properly consulting their employees. Through the excuses of ‘insufficient time’ and citing their statutory duty, this is an all too familiar situation when administrators are involved.

If we were to place this scenario on a balancing scale, I’m afraid to say that the employees come off worst. It is not uncommon to see the duties companies owe to directors to maximise their creditors’ returns trump any duties owed to the employees. Seems unfair? That’s because it is! Yes, the creditors have put money on the line, but the employees have dedicated time and effort: the blue musk and banana shampoo didn’t sell by itself!

The Law:

As clarified by ACAS, employers should make all employees aware that they are considering making redundancies ASAP. The Body Shop should have explained:

• Which roles were at risk of redundancy.
• Why these redundancies were needed.
• How many redundancies they were considering.
• What was going to happen next.

Where 20 or more redundancies are proposed at one establishment, the employer has a statutory duty to collectively consult for a minimum of 30 days prior to making any redundancies.  This is in addition to the duty to consult individually.  A failure to collectively consult can lead to claims for protective awards which can be up to 13 weeks’ pay per employee, not to mention possible unfair dismissal claims. 

There are two types of redundancy pay: ‘statutory’ redundancy pay (what the law says you’re entitled to) and ‘contractual’ redundancy pay (some extra money on top of the statutory amount, usually outlined in your employment contract – note that only some employers offer this). As a minimum, employees are entitled to statutory redundancy pay if employed for 2 years continuously. The amount of the payment depends on the employee’s age and length of service.

Due to these ‘exploitative’ practices, ministers have been urged to step-in by amending the law to protect workers when firms and companies fall into administration. Body Shop employees have initiated a new petition, as it warns that “existing laws are enabling predatory practices that harm our high streets and burden the taxpayers.”

If you have any questions about this, or any other Employment law issue, then please get in touch with the Blackadders Employment team, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and across Scotland.

Nicola Burns

Nicola Burns

Director of Operations

Marketing Team

+44 1382 342217

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

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