Tribunal orders Scottish Refugee Council to pay two former staff £27,000

A Glasgow employment tribunal found the charity had unfairly dismissed two former refugee integration advisers

The Scottish Refugee Council has been ordered by an employment tribunal to pay two former employees almost £27,000 in compensation and expenses for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

In a judgment issued by the Glasgow employment tribunal last week, the SRC was found to have unfairly dismissed Stephen McGuire and Petra Kasparek from their roles as refugee integration advisers on 30 June 2016.

As a result, the tribunal ordered the charity to rehire McGuire on or before 31 July 2017 on his previous pay and conditions, and pay him arrears of wages of £6,084.09 and expenses of £1,200.

Kasparek was found to have been discriminated against because she was on maternity leave and was compensated with £8,466.02 and £10,000 compensation for injury to feelings as a result of the charity’s discrimination.

Of this figure, £4,487.35 is payable to the public purse because Kasparek had been receiving unemployment benefit after her dismissal.

She was also granted £1,200 reimbursement of fees in taking the case to court.

Kasparek and McGuire worked for the charity’s refugee integration service, which was principally funded by a two-year, £2m grant from the Big Lottery Fund that ended on 30 June 2016, the judgment said.

The SRC made a formal application for a second grant from the BLF at some point before the original grant was due to run out, but became aware that a decision would not be made until August and decided to give notice of the risk of redundancy to the four refugee integration advisers.

A second application was made to the BLF for development funding, which would have kept the service running until a long-term decision was reached, but it was rejected.

Kasparek, while funded by the grant, was on an indefinite contract and went on maternity leave in June 2015. McGuire, who was previously on a temporary contract, was employed as maternity cover, according to the judgment.

Kasparek gave notice of her intention to return from maternity leave on 12 May 2016, but decided to take her accrued annual leave until 4 July 2016.

The affected staff were given formal notices of dismissal. The tribunal found there was "no attempt by the respondent to consult with any of the individual recipients of these letters when they were issued" or prior to 13 June 2016.

The SRC board then decided to retain two of the four affected refugee integration advisers for two months from the end of the grant, with all four affected staff undergoing interviews to decide who would be retained.

Kasparek was not included in many of the communications sent out by the charity to those affected by the redundancy decision, the tribunal found.

It said she was disadvantaged in the interview process for the two temporary roles because she was unable to refer to recent examples of work, having been on maternity leave. She also appealed her dismissal, which she lost, although McGuire did not make an appeal.

Kasparek was unemployed until 3 October 2016, but her new role paid £94 a week less than her previous salary.

The BLF grant application was eventually successful and ran for two years from 1 September 2016, but Kasparek was not reappointed.

McGuire took some temporary employment before finding a new job.

The tribunal’s judgment said that it was not impressed with the evidence provided by John Wilkes, chief executive of the SRC at the time of the redundancies, and Kes Cameron, head of finance and administration. It said that Wilkes had "a surprisingly poor understanding of the respondent's policies and procedures" and Cameron was "clearly and significantly lacking in experience or understanding of the role of a manager conducting an appeal against dismissal".

In a statement, Gary Christie, interim chief executive of the SRC, said: "SRC always seeks to retain the expertise of our highly dedicated staff. However, like many charities, we face difficult staffing decisions in tight timeframes when project funding streams come to an end and no new funding is in place.

"The tribunal decision shows that in this instance we got it wrong. The board and management team will carefully consider the judgment in detail. The charity will implement all necessary actions, including an audit of our HR processes, to make sure that when difficult redundancy situations regrettably arise in the future we do so equitably and in line with our policies."

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