Former employees at Brown's hotel in London have been awarded £180,000 by an employment tribunal, after it found that owner Rocco Forte Hotels (RFH) had contravened legal obligations when it sacked all the staff in April 2004.
Julie Morris, employment partner at Russell Jones & Walker, represented the employees. "This case is a salutary lesson to employers across the hotel and hospitality industry that staff must be treated fairly, according to employment law," she said.
But the windfall works out at just over £1,500 per person. This was not as much as the employees - who have yet to pick up the solicitor's undisclosed "no win, no fee" bill - might have hoped for.
RFH managing director Richard Power admitted that while the company was found not to have consulted properly on the hotel's closure, it was because of a difference of interpretation in the law. It was considering an appeal.
The compensation, equivalent to a month's pay per employee, acknowledges that RFH acted with integrity because it could have been up to three months' salary per employee.
"We tripped up over a legal point that was not well defined, but we do not accept the tribunal's interpretation and will consider whether to appeal. We believed we were doing the right thing," said Power.
He added that RFH had tried to find the Brown's staff jobs - either within RFH, or with other employers - and would offer them jobs when the hotel reopened later this year.