A former medical practice manager at a surgery in the West Midlands has had an Employment Tribunal find in her favour in her claim for unfair dismissal but her compensation has been slashed over concerns that she contributed to her dismissal.
Mrs Jill Paton worked for her husband Dr Richard Paton’s surgery as the medical practice manager until she was dismissed last year by Elgar Healthcare Ltd, the company which took over the practice from Dr Paton. Dr Paton retired from the practice and Mrs Paton was subsequently put on gardening leave and dismissed. After being dismissed Mrs Paton, who earned £71,600 per annum for working a four-day week at the medical practice, filed a claim for unfair dismissal at the Employment Tribunal and this claim was heard earlier this month.
The Employment Tribunal heard evidence from employees of Elgar Healthcare Ltd that Mrs Paton had allegedly without authorisation cancelled flu vaccinations for 250 people covered by the practice and that she had also allegedly taken confidential staff files from her former employer. Mrs Paton denied the accusation that she had cancelled the vaccinations to “cause mischief” and disputed that the taking of the staff files constituted misconduct.
If you have a grievance against your employer please feel free to use this helpful grievance template letter.
The Tribunal found in Mrs Paton’s favour in her claim for unfair dismissal. Employment Tribunal judge Barry McGluggage stated that relations had worsened between the Patons and Elgar Healthcare but that “while the allegation concerning the cancellation of the flu jabs was the strongest in terms of evidence of misconduct and perhaps possessed the fewest criticisms to be made of the respondent’s approach, I did not consider that the presence of that allegation rendered the overall decision to dismiss fair.” However, although the Tribunal made a finding of unfair dismissal it decided to reduce her compensatory award by 100% to account for the fact that she had placed herself in “opposition” to her new employer. She is still owed hundreds of pounds in compensation under the basic award and holiday pay, though – a figure which the Employment Tribunal should be agreed between her and her former employer instead of having to revert to a further Employment Tribunal hearing to determine compensation.
Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented: “This case demonstrates the caution which employees must taken in their dealings with current – or even former – employers if they wish to make a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal; conduct which could be described as in some way blameworthy could result in the compensatory award being drastically reduced.”