Legal action brought by ex-KWM staff over redundancies held up by 'excessive and unnecessary' delay

An employment tribunal claim brought by former King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) staff over the way their redundancies were handled by the firm, has been hit by delays due to IT problems.

About 200 former staff of KWM’s collapsed European arm have been informed by their solicitors, Herrington Carmichael, that their claim – which was brought in February – has been prevented from proceeding by IT issues at the Employment Tribunal Service.

The claim relates to KWM’s failure to enter a formal consultation process of 45 days prior to making staff redundant when it filed for administration in January, which employers are required to do when making more than 100 redundancies at one time.

Herrington Carmichael made a formal complaint to the Employment Tribunal about the delays on 1 June. In an email to claimants sent that day, the firm described the delay as “excessive and unnecessary”.

The firm informed claimants by email last week (1 July) that it had received an apology from the Employment Tribunal Service for the delays. The email states: “The IT problem that they blamed the delay on is still preventing them from proceeding. However, starting next week, one member of the Tribunal team will be taken away from their normal duties in order to attempt to resolve this matter.

“The Tribunal expect this to take two weeks. We hope to have more of an update for you after the next two weeks. I appreciate that this isn’t the news you will have wanted, but we can assure you that we will continue to chase progress until we see it and will update you accordingly.”

A spokesperson for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said: “A technical issue with an IT system has caused a short delay in this case proceeding to tribunal. We are urgently investigating.”

Due to the delays, it is understood there has been no formal response from KWM administrators Quantuma about whether it will defend the claim or let it continue uncontested.

Any successful claim would be paid out by the Redundancy Payment Office or National Insurance Fund.

KWM’s Europe, UK and Middle East arm – the legacy SJ Berwin business – went into administration on 17 January. At its height in 2007-08, SJ Berwin business was ranked 14th in the UK top 50, with revenues of £215m and profit per equity partner of £801,000.

Herrington Carmichael declined to comment. Quantuma was contacted for comment.