Paul Kissen: Morton's Rolls are back but what is actually left?

It has been a turbulent fortnight for the beleaguered Morton's Rolls.

After being left in limbo for a week amid a swirl of rumours about the company reopening, employees received emails last Monday confirming they were dismissed.

But there was another twist in the story after it was announced that production was to “restart after the firm was bought out of administration by a consortium."

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While this was positive news for consumers, the benefit to employees has been somewhat overstated.

Much was made about Morton's being "saved" but what does it mean for employees?Much was made about Morton's being "saved" but what does it mean for employees?
Much was made about Morton's being "saved" but what does it mean for employees?

The rolls have survived, at least for now. But what about the jobs? The new owner is quoted as saying, "The important thing now is that Morton's is back in action, we've got the workforce back on the production line."

This sounds encouraging but is the workforce back on the production line and no longer in limbo? Not exactly.

The majority of the 230 employees remain unemployed. For those being "re-hired", their position is precarious. It can be assumed that neither the new owners nor the old ones believe there has been a TUPE transfer as there has been no consultation in this regard. This means they have lost their continuity of service, some having worked there for decades, and with it their accrued employment rights. They could now be dismissed without recourse at anytime in the first two years by their “new” employer.

And a new employer it is.

Paul Kissen is a solicitor at ThompsonsPaul Kissen is a solicitor at Thompsons
Paul Kissen is a solicitor at Thompsons

While the brand name "Morton's Rolls" lives on, Morton's Rolls Ltd, the former employer, is no more. This is why all the employees dismissed last week, especially those being offered employment with this new company, must not lose sight of the fact that they were and remain dismissed by Morton's Rolls Ltd and are still entitled to claim various payments.

The media excitement last week has already caused confusion amongst former employees with some asking whether or not there was still any point claiming redundancy payments when they were "going back to work". The answer is a resounding "Yes".

So, what can they claim?

Those who worked more than two years for Morton's Rolls Ltd can claim statutory redundancy pay, and everyone can claim pay for loss of notice, accrued, but untaken annual leave, and any unpaid wages.

Crucially, all those dismissed can also join the additional claim for a protective award. This is a claim in the Employment Tribunal for the company's failure to consult the workforce over a 45-day period before dismissing everyone. If successful, this claim could see every employee, including those who accept jobs with the new company, win a further 90 days' pay.

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Those making such claims should be clear that asserting these rights does not constitute legal action against the new business and will not jeopardise employment opportunities with them. These claims are against the old Morton's Rolls Ltd and any compensation will come from the Government Insolvency Service.

The new company will hopefully do well in the months ahead. If they do, one also hopes that all 230 of those who have been making the real dough over the years will be offered work so they too can share in the success already being celebrated.

Paul Kissen is a solicitor in Thompsons Solicitors Scotland employment law team.