The Biggest & Best Portal to the Professional Property, Workplace and Built Environment Community

Sunday, 21 July

Britannia Ruling - Services Firm Facing Unfair Dismissal Fine

Britannia Services
Susana Benavides

An Employment Tribunal has found in favour of Susana Benavides, a sacked Top Shop cleaner and now her direct employer, Britannia Services, faces paying out a whopping £75,000 for her unfair dismissal.

Benavides has been a full-time UVW (United Voices of the World) organiser ever since being unfairly given the old heave-ho from her position at Top Shop Oxford Street in London. Benavides had acted as a shop-steward previously and involved the UVW in a number of grievance issues that were put forward to the owners of Britannia and also managers at Arcadia (the retail conglomerate headed by disgraced billionaire Sir Phillip Green) which owns the Top Shop brand.

The Tribunal heard the case last year and made its decision in January but has only recently sent both the Claimant (Benavides) and the Respondent (Britannia Services Group) the official ruling.

At the weekend (February 23-24) it was reported that Britannia intend to appeal.

The Tribunal ruled that Benavides was sacked principally due to her union related activities, rejecting the argument that a union’s typical activities cannot include large scale public direct-action protests.

Benavides had slowly angered her bosses - David Shaw owner and MD and his wife, Carol by presenting joint grievances from up to 15 of her colleagues. She also attracted the wrath of her manager Ashraf Estefanous and her supervisor Samuel (whose surname has not been included in the ruling).

Then in March of 2016, Benavides was instrumental in organising a UVW protest outside Top Shop on Oxford Street where she used a loudhailer to call for Arcadia to back a demand for the Living Wage. UVW is known for its large scale public direct-action protests and the protest attracted huge media coverage - and a big police presence as London's most famous shopping street was congested.

The Shaw's called Benavides to a disciplinary hearing (although the pair denied it was such at the hearing) and claimed their client had asked for her to be transferred to a different store and this transfer would pay her more (7.50 an hour), give her more hours (30) and make her journey to work easier (the store was in the City of London to the east of the Capital). It was more than implied that if she did not take the offer, a formal procedure leading to dismissal would take place.

It was found by the Tribunal that the client did not in fact ask for a transfer and when told this of the plan, was very concerned that a dismissal would prove unfair and reflect badly on Arcadia and Top Shop.

Ultimately, Benavides was dismissed on 15 October 2016 on the grounds of gross misconduct for her purported 'activities on social media'. Assisted by UVW, Benavides commenced her claim on 22 October 2016.


In the pockets

Benavides' protest - and a 37,000 signature petition delivered to Top Shop did result in the fashion retailer insisting that Britannia raised cleaners' wages - not the London Living Wage but minimum wage (also known by the Government as the Living Wage) plus 30p.


Poverty wage employers

Benavides is said to have been behind other protests that included 600 flyers planted in the pockets of garments, announcing the ' hypocrisy of Top Shop claiming to fully subscribe to the concept of the living wage while contracting services to poverty wage employers'.


Not the first

This was not the first time Britannia Services Group had faced an unfair dismissal claim. In fact, another employee, dismissed in 2018 was due to have her case heard at the same time as Benavides but Britannia agreed they were in the wrong and chose to settle out of court. However, the facts of the case were put before the Benavides Tribunal.



As the Tribunal only issued its outcomes on February 15, the sum that Benavides may be awarded has been calculated by the United Voices of the World.

Picture: Britannia Services, faces paying out a whopping £75,000 for the unfair dismissal of Top Shop cleaner Susana Benavides (pictured below being interviewed for national news TV coverage) who organised a massive 2016 demo in favour of the London Living Wage outside Top shop Oxford Street.


Article written by Brian Shillibeer


Related Articles

Radical Idea Gets Legal Approval

The radical union, United Voices of the World, has done something radical - organising  paralegals, solicitors and barristers across the UK to join cleaners,...

 Read Full Article
Strikers And Marchers Cause Anti-outsourcing Havoc In London

Hundreds of workers took to the streets in London to demonstrate against outsourcing, causing havoc as they marched from venue to venue to join strikers on picket lines...

 Read Full Article
Minority Union Calls Strike On Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice is expected to be forced to close for the duration of a 48 hour strike by security guards, cleaners and receptionists between 21st-23rd...

 Read Full Article
Poor Pay Packs Punch In England's East

441,950 East Of England residents in employment earned less than the real living wage of £9.00 per hour in the year to April 2018 a new GMB study has shown. The...

 Read Full Article
A Bit Of A FCO-up As Pay Disputes Shame Whitehall

More days of strike action are to be held by PCS members working for Interserve at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Meanwhile the union is up in arms at having to...

 Read Full Article
Practical Steps For Workplace Wellbeing

As a contribution to Mental Health Awareness Week, the PCS union has offered some practical to take to promote good mental health and are encouraging the contractors its...

 Read Full Article
London Hospitals May See Sodexo Staff Strike

Tuesday April 30 saw three London hospitals hit by protests over pay involving porters, cleaners and domestic staff who work for Sodexo. The protests could escalate to...

 Read Full Article
Ghoulish Excuse As Skeletons Emerge From JV Closet

Workers on the Euston HS2 site are being stopped from easily meeting their union reps because 'they are too traumatised by the discovery of skeletons at the...

 Read Full Article
ThisWeekinFM Spotlight Interview - Q3 Services

The principals at Q3 Services - a boutique British FM company founded in 2018 - claim they are changing the way clients benefit from outsourced services. The first...

 Read Full Article
Working For Two Masters Case Dismissed

March 25 saw the High Court dismiss the idea that the University of London (and others like it) should be considered a 'de facto' joint employer of those working...

 Read Full Article