Charity unfairly dismissed support worker after four-hour disciplinary meeting, tribunal finds

A learning disability charity has been forced to pay more than £14,000 to a former employee after claims of wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal and mistreatment were upheld by an employment tribunal.

A ruling from Birmingham Employment Tribunal, published this week, found Hft unlawfully dismissed Olga Antonova, who worked as a support worker with the charity between 2012 and her dismissal in October 2019.

A complaint of mistreatment was also upheld after the tribunal read transcripts of a disciplinary meeting on 16 July 2019 between Antonova and senior management staff member, which Antonova had covertly recorded.

The meeting was held in a small room and lasted four hours, during which the member of senior management made threatening statements and failed to offer Antonova the opportunity to take a break, the tribunal found.

The tribunal heard that Antonova went on to make a formal grievance but was dismissed before being offered a hearing.

Antonova, who is Latvian, was told by another staff member that her colleagues at the charity may have seen her as a “fat foreigner”, the tribunal heard.

But the tribunal dismissed claims of direct race discrimination and harassment related to race, along with claims of arrears of pay/other payments.

The tribunal also found the claimant contributed to her dismissal due to “blameworthy conduct” and therefore decided to apply a 30 per cent deduction to her compensation.

It ordered the charity to pay Antonova sums including basic and compensatory awards plus sums for injury to feelings, loss of statutory rights and notice pay totalling £14,002.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “Hft has accepted the outcome of the tribunal in 2021. Since then our whistleblowing policy and procedure has been fully reviewed and relaunched.

"In addition, as part of our regular policy reviews, our disciplinary and grievance policies are currently under review and our people managers are regularly trained on these policies.

"On this occasion, we accept the tribunal’s ruling and are committed to ensuring that all our colleagues are fully supported by Hft.”

Hft, which supports adults with learning disabilities, has 300 centres across England and provides services including supported living.

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