Borough club couple granted thousands in employment tribunal

Leigh Labour Club closed in April last year and is now The Abbey
Leigh Labour Club closed in April last year and is now The Abbey

The owners of a former social club have been ordered to pay thousands of pounds to two long-standing employees after scrapping their jobs without notice when they bought the business.

Graham Anthony Andrews and Tracey Jane Andrews of The Abbey Pub in Leigh have been told to pay a total of £19,940 to two employees - a married couple in their 60s - after being brought before an employment tribunal.

Employment judge Franey ruled that the pair unfairly dismissed the stewards, who had been at Leigh Labour Club for more than 20 years, when they bought the struggling business back in April 2018.

The club, which had been running for almost a century, was sold to the Andrews last year before being rebranded as “The Abbey”.

It was then that the two stewards, named “Mr and Mrs Leonard” in the tribunal documents, were told that their services would no longer be needed and were dismissed, despite their contract saying they should have three months notice.

The tribunal heard how on Friday, April 6, last year, a sign went up in the club to tell patrons that Leigh Labour Club would stop trading two days later.

On the Monday morning, Mrs Leonard turned up for work to supervise the cleaning and was told along with the other staff, that she no longer had a job.

It took another 10 days for the confirmation of hers and her husband’s redundancies to turn up in the form of a

letter.

The dispute, however, arose when the new owners, Mr and Mrs Andrews, said that they had merely bought the premises, not the business as a whole, and that the

staff were not their responsibility.

Mr Andrews explained that although the original plan was to buy the entire company, he realised that this would not be financially viable and shortly after opted just to buy the building.

After hearing evidence from both sides, employment Judge Franey ruled that the business transaction was a “transfer” of the business and that the Andrews had a responsibility to pay notice pay and redundancy pay to the loyal couple.

Judge Franey said: “There were some factors which pointed strongly towards this having been a transfer.

“ The most significant was that the economic entity after the transaction was almost identical to that which existed before.

“It remained a licensed premises with a games room and a function room which was open to members of the public.

“The business re-opening on those premises was not a different kind of business.

“It might have been different had the club only been open to members when it ceased to trade, but it had been open to the public for at least a decade.

“Mr Andrews candidly acknowledged in cross examination that to an individual patron little would appear to have changed after the transaction save for the name of the premises and the identity of the manager.”

The judge said other elements including “fixtures and fittings” were transferred to the new owners during the sale, and that bookings made under the old company were also transferred to

The Abbey when they took over - which shows a “degree of continuity” following the takeover.

The new owners, through their solicitor, admitted that there had been “no warnings or consultation” before the Leonards were dismissed.

Judge Franey added: "The unfair dismissal complaints brought by both claimants against the second respondent are well-founded. The claimants were unfairly dismissed."

After hearing all the evidence, Judge Franey awarded Mr and Mrs Leonard 12 weeks of notice pay at £3,000 and £2,464 respectively as well as £8,168 and £6,308 in redundancy pay. He also acknowledged that the pair had been unfairly dismissed.