Seventy staff who lost their jobs when Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall collapsed win legal claim for £200,000 after being made redundant without notice
- Former employees will receive the equivalent of eight weeks’ pay after ruling
- Fifteen Cornwall – which celebrity chef, 45, launched in 2006 – closed last year
- Oliver was no longer involved with the chain when it collapsed before Christmas
Seventy workers who lost their jobs at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall have won more than £200,000 after a successful legal claim.
The former employees at the shuttered site at Watergate Bay near Newquay will receive the equivalent of eight weeks’ pay after a tribunal found bosses failed to consult with them over the redundancies.
Fifteen Cornwall – which the celebrity chef, 45, launched in 2006, closed just days before Christmas last year without any prior notice. Oliver was no longer involved with the chain when it collapsed.
Fifteen Cornwall (right) – which the celebrity chef, 45, (left) launched in 2006, closed just days before Christmas last year without any prior notice
The law requires employers to consult with staff for at least 30 days whenever 20 or more employees are likely to be made redundant.
When can I challenge a redundancy and what money could I be entitled to?
If you are part of a group of 20 or more people who are being made redundant, this means you are part of a ‘collective redundancy’. In this case, your employer must hold a consultation at least 30 days before each job ends.
This consultation – held with a union or worker representatives – should involve the employer explaining, among other things, why redundancies are necessary and how they will work out redundancy payments.
If your employer fails to consult with you then you could be entitled to a Protective Award. This is granted by an employment tribunal using money from a government scheme. The maximum award covers eight weeks’ worth of pay, capped at £538 a week.
Other valid reasons for challenging a redundancy include being discriminated against on the grounds or race or sex or not being selected for a fair reason.
People who have been employed for more than two years have additional protections. They can claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds that the redundancy is not necessary; the employer has not followed a fair process; or they have not offered another role when one was available.
Source: Citizens Advice.
Employees are entitled to compensation, called a Protective Award, when that does not happen.
The Fifteen staff were approached by solicitors who offered to challenge their redundancies in return for a cut of the proceeds, but instead they turned to Citizens Advice who helped them for free.
Adviser Martin Jackson said ‘This is a great result for the former employees. The extra money will help tide them over Christmas.
‘Many have suffered a double whammy from being made redundant with no notice last winter and since then have been unable to find stable jobs in hospitality and catering due to lockdown.’
Citizens Advice Cornwall chief executive Gill Pipkin said ‘As soon as the job losses were announced, solicitors’ firms were lobbying the ex-employees for business with ‘no win, no fee’ schemes that would have led to them charging over £50,000 for making the applications, which Citizens Advice has done for free.
‘Anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation can come to Citizens Advice, where we can look into their case and, if necessary, help with any claim.’
The restaurant, launched in 2006 by Jamie Oliver, made the announcement it was going into liquidation in emails and via social media in December 2019 and ceased trading with immediate effect after almost 14 years.
A Crowdfunder was later launched to help the staff losing their jobs with the hopes of raising £10,000.
Helen Wilson-Prowis, former Operations Manager for Cornwall Food Foundation said ‘It’s been a really challenging year for everybody but everybody’s kept in touch and really coordinated well to get the where we are today.
‘I would like to say a massive thank you to Martin Jackson in particular from Citizens Advice and them as an organisation for taking this on and helping us all.
‘We couldn’t have done it without them.’
The Fifteen staff were approached by solicitors who offered to challenge their redundancies in return for a cut of the proceeds, but instead they turned to Citizens Advice who helped them for free
The demise of Fifteen was part of a broader collapse in Oliver’s restaurant empire last year.
Jamie’s Italian and Barbecoa also went into administration in May, with more than 20 restaurants shutting and 1,000 jobs lost as a result.
Some parts of the restaurant empire still exist in the form of 65 international sites in 25 countries.
Discussing the end of his empire, Oliver told The Graham Norton Show: ‘It was 13 years of hard work and Fifteen was my baby, but I ran out of money, ran out of everything and it was really tough, but you have to crack on and try to get yourself together.
‘I’ve had the best of it – I don’t know anyone who had it better than me – and I’ve had the worst of it – that’s life. You have to focus it to a positive.’
Asked if he plans to open more restaurants in the future, the star said he would wait to assess the impact of Brexit before committing to anything- and cited the problems faced by high street businesses.
He said: ‘Absolutely I’ll think about it, but not until after Brexit and after the high street has sorted itself out.
‘If you run a business in this country, there has been no good news for anybody for five years. It’s been tough and there is a lot of mess to sort out.’
Oliver’s other business activities include his partnerships with firms such as Shell and Tesco.
The Jamie Italian brand now only operates in the UK via a franchise at Gatwick Airport.
In August 2019 Oliver broke down as he visited Fifteen in east London, which he opened in 2002, as part of Channel 4 documentary Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef Bares All.
Both he and presenter Davina McCall became emotional as he talked her through what went wrong with his empire and the stress he had been under since.
Talking about the failures, he said he was ‘naive’ and ‘didn’t know’ how to run a business successfully.
He told McCall: ‘To survive in this industry is tough. I was very naïve.
‘I was good at running one restaurant. I opened lots of big restaurants and people like small restaurants and we sort of had these big cathedrals we couldn’t fill.’
He added: ‘The staff got paid up to the date and I made sure of that. The hardest part was telling staff that they haven’t got a job anymore.’
Walking into the building, Oliver said: ‘It’s like the films where the bomb goes off and everyone has to leave, and everything is just left.’
Then, after going downstairs, he began to break down into tears, telling McCall: ‘My god. It’s tough.’
Oliver’s chains Fifteen, Jamie’s Italian and Barbecoa went into administration in May, with more than 20 restaurants shutting and 1,000 jobs lost as a result
Oliver first opened the Fifteen restaurant in 2002 to train apprentice chefs from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The not-for-profit went on to give 15 young people a year the chance to work in the food industry at a cost of £40,000 each.
They were able to train alongside a team of 25 professional chefs and mentors.
Oliver said 80 per cent of them were still employed in the sector five or six years after they left.
He has previously said the business ‘changed him as a person’ and that the ‘young graduates were the profit’.
Oliver previously suggested Brexit was to blame for the collapse in an interview last weekend, claiming the ‘uncertainty’ caused has changed people’s eating habits.
The TV chef believes people stopped eating at restaurants because of uncertainty after the 2016 referendum.
He said: ‘The world changed, the high street changed – it started to become Uber -fied – our competitors changed, and we looked less different to them as we did in the beginning.
‘Then, when there’s that chain reaction, throw a bit of Brexit in, say the B word, confidence goes and people’s habits changed.’
But experts say the growth of takeaway apps, and a ‘saturation’ of food chains on Britain’s high streets contributed to eroding the company’s earnings.
In 2017 the father-of-five, who lives in a £6million 16th century Essex mansion, ploughed £12.7million of his own money into his struggling businesses.
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