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Four and a Half Million Reasons to Avoid DiscriminationPosted on by Angela Rhodes
2011 saw the highest amount awarded in an unfair dismissal and claim for discrimination – yes, £4.5 million. The employee, a NHS hospital worker, said her employer was making “a concerted campaign against her” following maternity leave when she subsequently became pregnant shortly after she started work for the NHS. On her return from maternity leave, she found that other employees had been paid extra remuneration during her absence. The employee, a Doctor within the Trust, raised this concern with her manager, believing this to have amounted to a pay increase, which she had not received whilst on maternity leave. This is when the trouble began as she became unpopular with senior doctors and managers within the Trust.
The Doctor claimed, at the Tribunal, that “secret meetings” were held about her as well as an unjustified 2.5 years of suspension following a ‘bogus’ disciplinary procedure which led to her dismissal – in her view without a “good or justifiable reason.” As well as this, the Doctor claimed that her ethnicity played a part in the Trust’s actions against her and cited “cultural issues”.
In its award, the Tribunal found the Doctor had been subjected to sex discrimination whilst she was absent on maternity leave. They also found in her favour of race discrimination and unfair dismissal – but not only did they find that the Trust in itself discriminated against her, but other named employees; and the HR Director. In this case, the law allowed a discrimination claim to be brought against the individuals as well as the employer. In reality, for employers, in most cases the employee seeks to recover the award from the employer as they are usually the ones most able to pay – but £4.5 million!
In conclusion, this case highlights the need for fair and transparent actions in relation to all employees in discrimination claims and so Crispin Rhodes would suggest that employers take our advice as follows:
- Ensure that your Equal Opportunities Policy is in place and that relevant training is provided.
- Promptly address difficult situations so they can be quickly managed.
- When suspending employees, ensure that the time off, and indeed the reason of, the suspension is realistic and of a reasonable period of time.
- Ensure there are justifiable and appropriate grounds to hold a disciplinary in the first place.
- Ensure that your Disciplinary process is followed in a fair and transparent manner.
- Any concerns raised relating to discrimination need to be taken seriously and your Grievance procedure is followed.
- Any employee who has raised concerns leading to a Grievance procedure should not be treated badly or dismissed just because they have raised concerns.
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