More than 24,000 former employees of collapsed retailer Woolworths will share a 67.8 million pound payout after a tribunal ruled there was insufficient consultation before they were made redundant, their union said on Friday.

Woolworths, a 100-year-old sweets-to-DVD retailer that once had a presence on nearly every high street, closed the last of its 800 stores in January 2009 after failing to find a buyer.

The Employment Tribunal, part of the courts service, awarded the former staff compensation of 60 days' pay, capped at the maximum allowable of 330 pounds a seek, shopworkers union Usdaw said.

Under British law, employers planning to make more than 20 staff redundant within a 90-day period must consult with their representatives before issuing any dismissal notices.

The tribunal found that administrators running Woolworths at the time had failed to meet this obligation.

However, a further 3,000 former employees were not included in the award as they had worked in smaller Woolworths stores where fewer than 20 redundancies were made.

The compensation bill will ultimately fall on taxpayers, and will be the largest insolvency ever dealt with by the government's Redundancy Payments Office, Usdaw said.

Woolworths went into administration, a form of creditor protection, in November 2008, after struggling for years amid competition from supermarkets and the Internet.

The retailer was the first big name business to fail after the economy soured following the global financial crisis.

The brand was sold to the biggest home shopping retailer, Shop Direct, who relaunched it as an online-only store.

(Reporting by Tim Castle)