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Former Betfred workers win redundancy settlement

Bookmaker Betfred has agreed to pay out almost half a million pounds to workers affected by the closure of its Wigan call centre, according to a trade union.

Unite said it had reached an agreement that would see 88 former Betfred employees share £469,978. The union helped the workers with a Facebook campaign calling for enhanced redundancy payments.

The former staff involved – said to be mainly women – were employed by state bookmaker Tote until it was bought by Betfred in 2011. They were then laid off in December 2015, when Betfred claimed that the shift to online and mobile betting meant the call centre they worked at was “no longer viable”. The employees claimed their contracts at Betfred entitled them to certain payouts.

Unite regional officer Donna Kassim said: “Despite our members having contracts of employment that outlined their terms and conditions and entitlement to redundancy pay, the company refused to pay up.  

“Together with the workforce, we mounted a social media campaign to shame Betfred bosses into doing the right thing. The Justice for Betfred Workers Facebook page attracted hundreds of supporters expressing their solidarity and support.”

Preema Alvarez, an employment solicitor at law firm Gordon Dadds, said the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 meant all contractual terms were protected when employees were transferred from one business to another.

Trying to argue that Tupe did not apply to a staff transfer was generally “not prudent”, she added. “The courts are likely to see through it and the employer will inevitably find themselves losing cases brought in the employment tribunal or having to settle out of court.”

Alvarez warned businesses to be careful what they put in contracts.

“It is not advisable for employers to expressly state enhanced redundancy entitlements in contracts of employment or contractual employee handbooks,” she said.

“However, there is also a risk of such enhanced schemes being enforceable where they are contained within non-contractual policies or other similar documents. 

“For maximum flexibility, it is best if employers keep any enhanced redundancy payments discretionary and agree these on a case-by-case basis. However, this may not always be possible, particularly in heavily unionised industries where such schemes should be honoured.”

A Betfred spokesman said: “Closing the call centre was a difficult decision but it was no longer viable with the shift to online betting. We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the staff and wish them all the best in their future careers

Added: 04-07-2016
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