What Happens to Employees When a Company Enters Liquidation?

Employees discussing what happens in liquidation

When a company can no longer meet its financial obligations, one of the options available is liquidation. Liquidation, a formal insolvency procedure, involves the winding up of a company by a liquidator and the sale of its assets to repay creditors. The insolvent employer’s liabilities are settled through this process when a company enters liquidation

Understanding company liquidation is not only crucial for business owners and company directors but also for the employees. It’s the employees who bear a substantial brunt of the process, often finding themselves in precarious situations involving job security, payment of wages, holiday pay, and more.

Whether you’re an employee whose company is facing liquidation or a director of a limited company who needs to liquidate their company, it’s essential to comprehend the implications of liquidation and the rights and entitlements you have during this challenging time. This understanding can help you navigate the process and ensure that you’re equipped to manage the potential impact on your employment and financial position.

In the following sections, we’ll explore company liquidation and the insolvency process in more depth and examine its implications on your staff, providing useful insights and advice along the way. We’ll also discuss the role of the liquidator in the insolvency proceedings.

Quick Links

Understanding Company Liquidation

The concept of company liquidation comes into play when a company finds itself in an insolvent situation, which means it is unable to meet its financial obligations as they become due, or the total of its liabilities exceeds its assets. The primary objective of liquidation is the fair distribution of a company’s assets to its creditors, thereby allowing the business to discharge its debts and discontinue its trading activities. This process culminates in the termination of the business and its subsequent removal from the Companies House register.

There are primarily three types of liquidation procedures:

Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL):

This form of liquidation takes place when the directors of a company acknowledge the business’s insolvent status and take a voluntary decision to wind up its affairs – Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL).

Compulsory Liquidation

This unfolds when a creditor, typically owed a considerable sum, appeals to the court for the company to be wound up. If the court concurs, it issues a winding-up order, leading to Compulsory Liquidation.

Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL)

This is an option open to solvent companies that decide to wind up their business operations. This action is initiated by directors or company members, often when they believe that the company has fulfilled its intended purpose or they no longer wish to continue the business, leading to a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL).

Every liquidation process is overseen by a designated professional known as an insolvency practitioner. These practitioners play an instrumental role in administering the liquidation procedure, taking on the role of liquidators to sell the company’s assets, settle debts with creditors, and ensure adherence to legal procedures. Furthermore, part of their responsibility includes delving into the company’s affairs, investigating the reasons for its downfall, and reporting any instances of unfair or wrongful actions to the respective authorities.

More information on the above processes can be read about using the links above.

Implications for Employees during Liquidation

The unfortunate liquidation of a company often brings numerous challenges for the employer and its employees, primarily concerning their rights and entitlements. Thus, it’s vital for them to understand their legal rights and the implications of the liquidation process.

One of the key rights employees have during liquidation for the insolvent company is the right to claim money owed to them by their insolvent employer. This might include unpaid wages, notice pay, holiday pay, commission, and redundancy pay. The National Insurance Fund (NIF) exists to pay certain amounts owed to employees if their employer becomes insolvent.

Employees also have a statutory entitlement to redundancy pay, subject to certain eligibility requirements. However, this is generally limited to a maximum number of weeks and is capped at a statutory limit. It’s important to note that this cap can change each year in April, so it’s recommended to check the current limit on the government’s official website.

Another pivotal concept in understanding employee rights during liquidation is TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations). If the insolvent business is sold, TUPE may apply, which can offer protection to employees. Essentially, TUPE ensures that employees’ contracts are transferred to the new employer, safeguarding their terms and conditions of employment. However, TUPE can be a complex area of law and professional advice is often necessary to fully understand its implications.

Amid the liquidation process, there might be instances where employees are dismissed unfairly or wrongfully. Unfair dismissal occurs when an employer does not have a good reason for dismissing the employee or fails to follow the company’s formal dismissal process. Wrongful dismissal, on the other hand, involves a breach of contract, typically related to notice periods and payments in lieu of notice. Employees who believe they have been wrongfully or unfairly dismissed may be able to bring a claim before an employment tribunal for wrongful dismissal.

However, to understand these rights fully, or in cases where these rights may be contested, it’s always advisable to seek professional advice. Legal advice can be sought from employment law solicitors, while free advice is often available from entities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Understanding the Notice Period

When a company enters into administration, it is crucial for employees to understand their rights and what information they should expect to receive. One of the critical components to be aware of is the notice period, a fundamental aspect of employment contracts that carries weight, even in the light of company insolvency.

Administration is a formal procedure where an insolvency practitioner is appointed to manage the company’s affairs with the aim of repaying as many creditors as possible. During this process, the appointed administrator has an obligation to keep employees informed about key developments that might impact their roles. One such piece of information is the duration of their notice period.

The notice period refers to the length of time between when an employee is informed of their termination and their last working day. This period is generally stipulated in the employment contract. It’s important to note that even in situations of insolvency, employees are entitled to a statutory notice period. This entitlement means that if the company cannot provide work during this period, they should provide pay in lieu of notice. Hence, understanding the notice period is crucial for employees as it impacts their financial position and allows them to plan for future employment.

Freephone including all mobiles

Financial Implications for Employees during Liquidation

When a company enters liquidation, employees may face various financial implications, many of which revolve around owed payments and redundancy.

Redundancy Pay

In case of liquidation, employees may be entitled to redundancy pay if they have been with the company for two or more years. This statutory entitlement is calculated based on the age, length of service, and weekly pay (up to a statutory maximum).

Unpaid Wages, Holiday Pay, and Statutory Notice Pay

Employees are entitled to claim unpaid wages and holiday pay up to six weeks prior to the insolvency date. Furthermore, they can also claim statutory notice pay, which is usually equivalent to one week’s pay for each full year of service, subject to a statutory limit.

All these claims, including redundancy pay, can be made to the National Insurance Fund (NIF). In the event that the company does not have enough money to pay these amounts, the NIF steps in to make certain payments.

Preferential and Unsecured Creditors

When it comes to settling debts, employees are considered preferential creditors for certain parts of their claim, such as unpaid wages and holiday pay. This gives them priority over unsecured creditors when it comes to the distribution of the insolvent company’s assets. However, for amounts over the statutory limits or for claims like unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal, employees would rank as unsecured creditors.

Understanding these financial implications and the claims process can be complicated. As such, employees are advised to seek professional advice or assistance from organisations like the Insolvency Service or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

It’s also important to remember that while these financial implications can be stressful and challenging, options and support mechanisms are in place to ensure that employees receive what they are legally entitled to.

Next Steps for Employees: Navigating Post-Liquidation

In the face of company liquidation, employees are often left wondering what their next steps should be. Beyond the immediate financial implications, there are other essential actions that employees must consider to safeguard their rights and chart their future career path.

Engaging with Insolvency Practitioners

When a company enters liquidation, an insolvency practitioner is appointed to oversee the process. As employees, it’s crucial to maintain open lines of communication with these professionals. They can provide much-needed clarity regarding the liquidation procedure, including potential redundancy, outstanding wages, and the process for making claims from the National Insurance Fund.

Depending on the specific circumstances, employees may need to consider taking legal action. For example, they could make a wrongful dismissal claim to an employment tribunal if they believe they were unfairly dismissed in the lead-up to the company’s liquidation. It’s also crucial to seek professional advice to fully understand the implications of liquidation on employment contracts and other related matters. Many resources can provide free legal advice, such as Citizens Advice and ACAS.

Future Employment and New Opportunities

While liquidation can be a difficult period, it can also open the door to new opportunities. As an employee, it’s essential to consider your employment options moving forward. This might include seeking employment with a new employer or potentially transferring to a new owner if the business or parts of it are sold. During this time, refining your CV, exploring job boards and engaging with recruitment agencies can be beneficial.

Although the liquidation of a company is a challenging experience for employees, understanding your rights and being proactive in taking the next steps can help ease the transition and set the stage for future career opportunities.

Trustpilot reviews, image of trustpilot logo

Free Advice

Low Cost Liquidations

Nationwide Service


The liquidation of a company can have profound effects on employees, impacting their financial position, employment status, and career trajectory. From facing potential redundancy to dealing with unpaid wages and holiday pay, the repercussions are far-reaching.

While the process is undeniably stressful, understanding the ins and outs of what company liquidation means for you as an employee can provide some peace of mind. It’s paramount to remember that you have rights and entitlements, such as claims from the National Insurance Fund and statutory notice pay. Additionally, the possibility of unfair dismissal claims or the application of TUPE rules in the event of business transfer further fortify your position.

In navigating this challenging period, do not hesitate to engage with insolvency practitioners and legal professionals who can provide invaluable advice tailored to your specific situation. No one should navigate the complex landscape of company liquidation alone. Utilise the resources available to you, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which can offer guidance and support.

Ultimately, while company liquidation signifies the end of one chapter, it also opens a new one. With the right knowledge and support, you can successfully transition to new opportunities, perhaps even turning a challenging situation into a stepping stone for your future career growth. Remember, every end is a new beginning.

Are you a director facing the complex issue of company insolvency? Don’t navigate these challenging waters alone. At Company Doctor, we specialise in offering comprehensive solutions for insolvent companies, including arranging Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs). We’re committed to providing the expert advice and tailored support you need to make the best decision for your business. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Act now to maximise your options and minimise the impact on your business. Call us today on 0800 169 1536 or visit our website to find out more about how we can help.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Compulsory Liquidation?

Compulsory liquidation is a process instigated by creditors who are owed £750 or more and have not been paid. This process involves a court order from the courts, following which the company is wound up, and its assets are sold to repay its debts. The company ceases to trade, and its name is struck off the register at Companies House.

What happens to my pay if my company is going into liquidation?

If your company is going into liquidation, you may become a ‘preferential creditor’ for certain amounts. This means you could be paid some or all of the money you’re owed, including unpaid wages, holiday pay and redundancy pay, from the assets of the company. If there isn’t enough money to pay you, you can make a claim to the National Insurance Fund (NIF).

Can I claim redundancy if my company is insolvent?

Yes, if your company is insolvent and you’re an employee who has been there for at least two years, you can make a claim for redundancy pay, unpaid wages, holiday pay and statutory notice pay from the Redundancy Payments Service.

What does TUPE mean for me as an employee?

TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) regulations protect employees when the business they work for changes hands. If your company is being sold rather than liquidated, TUPE may apply, meaning your employment contract is likely to be preserved, and you should transfer over to the new owner with the same terms and conditions.

What are preferential and unsecured creditors?

In the context of company insolvency, creditors are categorised according to their priority for repayment. Preferential creditors typically include employees owed wages or holiday pay, and they are paid before unsecured creditors. Unsecured creditors are typically suppliers, customers, HMRC and banks not holding security – they usually receive a proportion of any money left after preferential creditors and creditors with security (such as a mortgage) have been paid.


The primary sources for this article are listed below.

Acas | Making working life better for everyone in Britain

Citizens Advice

The Insolvency Service – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Your redundancy claim – Redundancy Payments Service (redundancy-payments.service.gov.uk)

Your rights if your employer is insolvent: Overview – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Details of our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content can be found in our editorial policy here.

Scroll to Top