Another Barnardo's Trading employee wins tribunal claim

The East London Employment Tribunal rules that Claire Vary was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed for gross misconduct

A second employee at Barnardo’s trading subsidiary has won an employment tribunal claim against the charity.

A ruling from the East London Employment Tribunal, published this week, says Claire Vary was a marketing manager at Barnardo’s Trading, a subsidiary company of the charity that purchases goods to sell in the charity’s shops, online or through mail-order catalogues, until she was dismissed for gross misconduct in July 2017 while she was off sick, having suffered a stroke in January that year.

Last month, Vary’s former boss Tracey Sarwar, head of Barnardo’s Trading, won a claim for constructive dismissal after being accused of trying to block the introduction of a Teletubbies product range because of health and safety concerns.

The judgment says that, on Sarwar’s instruction, Vary had carried out some work for the disability charity Mencap for the production of Christmas cards and gift wrapping paper as part of its 2016 range.

Sarwar’s former boss Gerard Cousins had left his position as director of retail at Barnardo’s in January 2016 to join Mencap, the judgment says. Cousins was replaced by Roy Clark in August 2016.

Clark became aware of concerns that Sarwar’s team might have carried out some work for Mencap after Sarwar resigned in February 2017.

An investigation by the charity concluded that Vary had provided competitive information to Mencap via Sarwar and summarily dismissed her for gross misconduct while she was on sick leave.

But the judgment says that Vary did not attend a disciplinary hearing and the charity was therefore unable to form a view on her credibility "based upon her oral answers to questions".

Her claim for unfair dismissal was therefore successful, as was a further claim for wrongful dismissal.

But the judge ruled that Vary’s conduct contributed towards her dismissal because she was "foolish or otherwise blameworthy" in not questioning the commercial basis of the Mencap work and in not keeping a proper record of her time spent on it.

"There is a chance that, even if further investigation had taken place, the claimant would have been fairly dismissed in any event," the ruling says.

A Barnardo’s spokesman said: "We respect the findings of the tribunal, while also agreeing with the tribunal findings that Miss Vary contributed to her dismissal by her conduct.

"It is clear the tribunal felt Miss Vary’s dismissal could have been judged as fair if further investigation had taken place.

"We will now focus on preparation for the remedy hearing to mitigate financial loss to Barnardo’s."

A further hearing to determine what payment Vary will be entitled to from the charity is due to take place between November and February, according to the judgment.

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