Former Comet staff win multi-million pound payout

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Staff of the now-defunct electrical retailer Comet have been awarded the equivalent of 90 days’ pay after an employment tribunal ruled that they were not been sufficiently consulted about their redundancies.

Nearly 7,000 staff lost their jobs when Comet entered administration in 2012. More than 2,000 of these former employees filed a claim against owner Comet Group Limited, alongside Deloitte, which acted as administrator when the electricals retailer collapsed.

The judgement, published June 12, results in the awarding to staff of up to 90 days’ pay, saying that  there had been no election of representatives for staff, while misleading information had been given out. The ruling paves the way for a potential payout of £10m, which will be met by the taxpayer.

Victoria Robertson, employment partner of The Needle Partnership, which represented 275 of the employees, said: “During the Tribunal case it emerged that they had been lied to, misinformed, and treated with very little dignity or respect whilst Comet’s owners extracted the maximum value from the business.”

Comet employees were backed by evidence from senior staff from the time of the company’s collapse, including then head of finance Michael Walters. The ruling stated: “Mr Edwards, [counsel for the largest group of claimants] setting out the general case for the claimants, put the argument bluntly: ‘As Mr Walters’ evidence makes clear, this was simply an old fashioned corporate raid that resulted in a number of private equity investors choosing to liquidate a 75-year-old British company, at a cost of almost 6,900 jobs in order to realise a quick and substantial profit. The liquidation of Comet may properly be described as one of the more regrettable episodes of British corporate history’.”

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