This is an important decision as it overturns previously binding authority on this area of the law. One difficulty is that EC Directive 98/59/EC provides that an employer should begin consultations when ‘contemplating’ making collective redundancies, whereas this duty is given effect in domestic law as being a duty to consult when an employer ‘proposes to dismiss’ employees as redundant.
The EAT held that as domestic law now stands, the obligation to consult over the avoidance of dismissals has significantly widened the scope of the consultation obligations. In its view, in a closure context, where it is recognised that dismissals will inevitably, or almost inevitably, result from closure, dismissals are proposed at the point when the closure of the business is proposed. Where closure and dismissals are inextricably linked, the duty to consult over the reasons for the closure arises.