A Yorkshire Age UK charity has been ordered to pay almost £6,000 for unfairly dismissing a former employee who was accused of financially grooming an elderly couple she met through work.
An employment tribunal in Leeds ordered Age UK Knaresborough & District to pay £5,895 to ex-staff member Mrs L Webber.
The tribunal heard that Webber had become ‘very close’ to the couple, known as Mr and Mrs A, according to tribunal documents. She regularly visited them during her own time and in July last year became a signatory on Mr A’s bank account amid concerns about his health and mobility.
The couples’ cheque book revealed they paid her £200 as a gift, the documents say.
Another couple who were friends of Mr and Mrs A raised concerns with the local authority when they discovered the signatory arrangement.
They accused Webber of financially grooming Mr and Mrs A. Webber immediately contacted the bank asking to be removed as a signatory but when the matter was raised at the North Yorkshire charity she denied to her chief executive, Jane Farquharson, that she had been a signatory.
Farquharson subsequently ‘robustly defended’ Webber when she wrote to the local authority about the matter, according to a written report of the case published last week.
After it emerged Webber had indeed been a signatory, she was suspended and disciplinary proceedings began.
Webber then raised a grievance against Farquharson, and F Lawton, a retired solicitor and trustee of the charity, became involved in the disciplinary proceedings, the tribunal documents say.
Eventually Lawton decided somebody ‘had to take a view’ and summarily dismissed Webber without offering her a hearing or appeal, which prompted the judge, Jennie Wade, to uphold the unfair dismissal charge at Leeds employment tribunal.
But Wade rejected a further claim for wrongful dismissal. "In my judgment the claimant would have been reasonably dismissed following a fair procedure, by a fair minded and reasonable employer acting within the band of reasonable responses, and giving due weight to the complexity of the matters being discussed, within six weeks.
"That is the limit of her lost earnings arising from the actions of the respondent in dismissing her summarily when it did."
No one was available to comment from Age UK Knaresborough & District and Age UK did not respond to Third Sector's request for comment in time for its 12 noon deadline.
Solicitors representing Webber did not respond to requests for comment.