Former chief of Bury Hospice was unfairly dismissed, tribunal finds

Jacqui Comber, who was dismissed by the hospice in March 2016, could get a payout of as much as £78,000 as a result

Bury Hospice
Bury Hospice

The former chief executive of Bury Hospice has won a claim of unfair dismissal and could be in line for a payout of up to £78,000.

Jacqui Comber, who was on sick leave from October 2015 and was suspended from her role in February 2016 while an independent review took place, was dismissed in March 2016.

Bury Hospice was the subject of an independent review of its governance and management in 2016 because of concerns about its performance in the previous two years – an interim report was used to justify Comber’s sacking.

But an employment tribunal judgment from 20 February, published last week, says the hospice did not go through the appropriate dismissal processes.

The judgment says the final review of the hospice was published without Comber having been interviewed, which the tribunal judgment says made it one-sided.

"Disciplinary proceedings based on the report of an independent third party which only deals with one side of the case are in my judgement unlikely to lead to the fair dismissal of the party who has not been interviewed and who has not had the opportunity to explain to the investigator their perspective on the issues raised and to point the investigator towards documents, records and lines of enquiry that might show the case in a completely different light," the judgment from employment judge Sherratt says.

It also says that it is reasonable to conclude from the evidence given by Bury Hospice’s witnesses that "whatever the claimant might have said at any disciplinary hearing that might have been arranged, she would have been dismissed by the trustees, who had made up their minds that the claimant had to go regardless of the rights or wrongs of her conduct".

The tribunal found that Comber had been unfairly dismissed and said the two parties should negotiate to reach an agreement about a suitable level of compensation.

The maximum amount Comber could receive is £78,000, according to her solicitors.

Comber’s claim for outstanding holiday pay was dismissed by the tribunal.

In a statement issued through her solicitors, Comber said she was "deeply saddened by the conduct of the trustees of Bury Hospice".

She said: "It is important that the people of Bury know the full facts and truth of this matter. Bury Hospice undertook a public campaign against me.

"The picture which has emerged from the tribunal is one of the trustees blaming me for all of the problems of Bury Hospice when in fact it was the trustees’ decisions to enter into significant financial commitments which placed unacceptable financial pressures on Bury Hospice, leading to a reduction of services. I now intend to pursue all of those individuals and organisations who made false accusations and allegations against me."

Bury Hospice did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this story.

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