Saleha RiazWed, 24 March 2021, 2:51 pm
Nearly 200 former employees at celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire, which collapsed in 2019, won a tribunal claim which entitles them to £500,000 ($685,887) but which the company could not afford to pay. This means the money came out of taxpayers’ pockets.
The Trade Union Act means all employers have to consult with workers prior to any closure, but Oliver’s staff said they received almost no notice, the Mirror reported.
One former employee, who won her case, told the publication the sudden collapse of the business had caused “a lot of shock and anger amongst my colleagues.”
196 former employees took their dismissals to a tribunal seeking a compensation for not being consulted. They were awarded eight weeks pay each, which totalled £499,717.
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The Insolvency Service, an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, paid out £471,027 after reclaiming some tax. It can make a claim against the administration estate to try to recover some of the funds.
The tribunal claim was against five of Oliver’s closed companies – Jamie’s Italian, Cornwall Food Foundation, Fifteen Cornwall, Fifteen Restaurant and One New Change.
None of the claims relate to the Jamie Oliver Group, which continues to trade.
In May 2019, KPMG closed all but three restaurants from the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group after Oliver announced that the company had entered administration, racking up debts of more than £80m.
In August 2019, all 20 Jamie Oliver restaurants put up for sale by KPMG following the collapse of the celebrity chef’s empire were sold.
Around 1,000 employees across more than two dozen restaurants were made redundant as part of the administration and councils were reportedly £1.2m out of pocket due to unpaid business rates.
Trouble had been brewing for some time before that — and the chef had previously pointed to a “perfect storm” of high rents, rates, high street difficulties, and Brexit for the firm’s woes.
Oliver was forced to inject almost £13m of his own money into the company to save it from bankruptcy over the course of several months in 2017 and 2018.