Laid-off employees now face tribunal

New signage at Bradley Group's Belfast site
New signage at Bradley Group's Belfast site

Former employees of Bradley Group companies in Belfast who were laid off last year will now need to take their redundancy claims to a tribunal, after the NI Redundancy Payments Service rejected their claims on the basis that their employer was liable due to TUPE.

Bradley Group (UK) has in turn rejected the NIRPS findings, meaning the claims will now need to be decided at a tribunal.

The situation dates back six months to August 2019 when a restructuring at Quinnstheprinters and Nicholson & Bass resulted in all staff being made redundant, with workers applying for a reduced number of new roles at Bradley Group (UK).

14 people lost their jobs as a result of the restructure. After a lengthy investigation the NIRPS has now rejected their claims.

Printweek understands that some of the other workers who were made redundant but then re-employed at Bradley Group have also made claims to the NIRPS.

In a letter to a person made redundant from their role at Quinns Belfast (2009), and seen by Printweek, the NIRPS stated: “I regret we must reject your application because, in the Department’s view, the business in which you were employed was transferred to a new employer, Bradley Group UK Ltd, within the meaning of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.”

The letter continued: “We therefore suggest you write to Bradley Group UK Ltd as soon as possible asking for payment of any outstanding contractual debts. If Bradley Group UK Ltd refuses to pay these debts you should make a complaint to an Industrial Tribunal under the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996, naming the Department of the Economy and the new employer as a respondent.”

The former employee said that they had believed that Bradley Group was responsible due to TUPE from the outset.

However, the company has rejected the NIRPS findings and continues to deny liability.

Bradley Group issued a response to the ex-employee via its solicitors at Millar MCall Wylie that said: “Whilst we appreciate there has been a delay in receiving any monies owing, we do not agree that a transfer to The Bradley Group UK Ltd, within the meaning of the Transfer Of Undertakings (Protection of employment) Regulations 2006, has occurred. As a result any monies owed must be claimed from the Redundancy Payments Service and we are unable to provide any further assistance.”

Printweek approached Bradley Group for comment and received a letter from Millar McCall Wylie that stated: “Our client will be robustly defending any such claims at the Industrial Tribunal and will be disputing their liability as a matter of urgency with the NI Redundancy Payments Service, with whom the responsibility for payments to the former employees lies.”

Last October, Bradley Group’s then managing director Peter Bradley said that an alleged fraud by a former employee had precipitated the restructuring at the business.

The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed to Printweek that a man released under investigation at the time is now being prosecuted.

A PPS spokesperson said: “I can confirm that after a careful consideration of all the available evidence a decision has been taken to prosecute a 31-year-old man for the offences of fraud by abuse of position and fraud by false representation.”

The case will be heard next month.

Separately, 21 former employees of the Liverpool site of Quinns Belfast (2009), which was shuttered at the beginning of last year, have been successful in their Employment Tribunal claim.

The judgement handed down said their claim was “well-founded in that the respondent failed to comply with its statutory collective consultation obligations… before proposed redundancy dismissals took place at its establishment”.

The Tribunal made a protective award in respect of each claimant, with the respondent [Quinns] ordered to pay remuneration to them for a protected period of 90 days.

Quinns Belfast (2009) went into liquidation in October.

The Nicholson & Bass name has been removed from the side of the Bradley Group’s Mallusk factory, which now has banners advertising and Mannin Commercial Print on its gates.

Mannin Group is the Isle of Man-based print business acquired by Bradley Group in 2017.

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