Member awarded damages by Employment Tribunal with backing of Unite Legal Services

A Unite member has been awarded damages by an Employment Tribunal after he was unfairly dismissed by his former employers.

Paul Hagger from Exeter was sacked from his job as a canteen assistant at a dairy company after being told he was no longer capable of working in the role.

Paul had been moved into the job 18 months earlier after he broke his ankle in a fall at work.

The accident meant he had to take several months off work from his job as a production operative on the factory floor. When he returned to work it became clear his injuries meant he could no longer cope with the 12 hour shifts.

The firm’s occupational health department said he was no longer fit to work in the role and transferred him to a job in the canteen. He was told it was a permanent position.

However, 18 months later he was told that he would be returning to a position on the factory floor. Just a few weeks later he received a letter informing him he was being dismissed on ill health grounds with just nine weeks’ notice.

Paul contacted Unite Legal Services for advice, who helped him appeal the dismissal arguing that he had worked in the canteen role on a permanent basis and that the dismissal on grounds of ill health was incorrect. The decision to sack Paul was upheld.

Unite Legal Services supported Paul in pursuing an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal, arguing that he was on a permanent contract in a role he was clearly capable of doing. It said that the dismissal should have been a redundancy situation and therefore the correct selection procedures should have been undertaken.

Taunton Employment Tribunal found in Paul’s favour and awarded him £15,000 in compensation.

Paul said: “It is a big relief that the Tribunal has awarded this money. Unite Legal Services has been a great support and helped me to find a way through the legalities of my case. I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise.”

Heath Pettifer from Unite said: “Paul’s employer was using his injury as an excuse to sack him and attempted to pull the wool over his eyes. When he contacted us we could see the firm should have been treating this as a redundancy situation and as a result all members of staff working in the canteen should have been put through the correct redundancy selection process.”