Citizens Advice employee unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules

The tribunal ruled that the Citizens Advice Staffordshire South West employee of 10 years was unfairly dismissed, but rejected claims of age and disability discrimination

An employment tribunal has ruled that a Citizens Advice bureau unfairly dismissed a long-serving member of staff.

The tribunal in Birmingham adjudicated that Citizens Advice Staffordshire South West committed a "procedural error" when it dismissed Pat Evans-Nixon last year.

But it rejected Evans-Nixon's claims for age and disability discrimination.

Evans-Nixon, who had been employed as an advice session supervisor for 10 years, was made redundant after council funding cuts.

Acting on advice from the national Citizens Advice, the bureau scored staff on their ability in areas such as performance, skills and attitude. Those with the highest scores were retained.

According to the tribunal's written judgment, which was published on Friday, Evans-Nixon scored 97 out of 155 and was subsequently made redundant.

The judgment reveals that Evans-Nixon, who has a rare brain disorder called leukoencephalopathy that causes mini strokes, disputed her score and believed her selection was unfair because less experienced and less knowledgeable colleagues were retained.

She also claimed to have suffered age and disability discrimination, and said that if her performance was not good enough it was because of stress at work that arose from a poor relationship between two managers.

The judgment says: "The individual scores were not discussed with her, nor was she given an opportunity to dispute them before the decision to dismiss her had been taken. The tribunal would describe it as a ‘fait accompli’."

"The tribunal finds that this procedural error was more than minor or trivial and that the dismissal was procedurally unfair."

But the tribunal said the subsequent appeal process conducted by Sue Nicholls, the chief executive, was more than mere "rubberstamping".

It said Nicholls examined the evidence, listened to the claimant and upgraded one score, bringing Evans-Nixon's overall total to 100, although this did not alter the final outcome.

"Her appeal process was a comprehensive and detailed reassessment," the judgment says.

The tribunal, heard before employment judge Merry Cocks, said there was no evidence Evans-Nixon's score had been marked down because of her disability or age – she was 59 at the time.

The judgment says a remedy hearing was expected to take place to determine how much the charity should pay.

But the tribunal ruled that any compensatory award should be reduced by 80 per cent because "the detailed and comprehensive appeal dealt with the points which the claimant is likely to have raised during the consultation prior to dismissal, had she had the opportunity to do so at that stage.

"A reduction of 80 per cent reflects the low chance that if the claimant had the chance to dispute her scores before the decision to dismiss, she might not have been selected for redundancy. "

A spokesman for the national Citizens Advice organisation said: "We accept the decision of the tribunal and recognise that the redundancy process could have been implemented differently.

"We will reflect on this case and take on board the findings of the tribunal, and ensure that any similar situations in the future follow the procedure in every detail."

The spokesman added that the claimant had "requested a remedy by negotiation with ACAS rather than a hearing, so we are working with the solicitor and ACAS".

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