North-east animal charity unfairly dismissed employee, tribunal finds

Berwick Animal Rescue Kennels has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 in compensation and court fees to DL Short

An animal charity has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 to a former employee after it was found to have unfairly dismissed him.

Berwick Animal Rescue Kennels was told by an employment tribunal in North Shields, north-east England, to pay £806.15 compensation for unfair dismissal and £1,200 to cover tribunal fees to the former employee, identified in the court papers as Mr DL Short.

In 2016, colleagues complained to the charity’s management about Short’s conduct and behaviour, specifically his alleged "unpleasant and domineering attitude" and aggression and intimidation towards colleagues, the judgment says.

Short was then asked to attend an informal meeting with Janice Ross, the kennels manager, and a trustee, David Knight, on 22 July 2016. This was cancelled at short notice, but that evening Short rang Ross demanding to know what the meeting was about.

Short was then invited on 31 July to a formal disciplinary meeting and was suspended on full pay.

The judgment says: "On 13 August and whilst the claimant remained suspended, two 15-year-old volunteers were walking dogs on behalf of the respondent.

"The claimant began taking photographs of those volunteers and the dogs. Two kennel assistants provided statements to the respondent alleging that the claimant had refused to stop taking photographs of the two 15-year-old volunteers and their dogs."

On 9 September, a formal written warning was issued by the charity over the 22 July and 13 August incidents.

Short, who was contracted to work shifts between 8am and 8pm on any day of the week, but had never worked morning shifts because of a window cleaning job he also held, was then told by the charity to work different shifts, including mornings, and attend anger-management training paid for by the charity.

He was warned that further breaches of discipline would result in disciplinary action, the tribunal heard.

On 15 September, Short told the charity he was unable to do morning shifts because of the window cleaning job, and an appeal was made and then heard on 4 October.

A letter dated 5 October told Short to return to work on 11 October for four morning shifts, but Short wrote to the charity on 7 October to say he would not do so.

Short failed to attend work on 11 October. The charity wrote to him two days later to say that this was in breach of his employment contract.

Short said he felt he was being unfairly treated, and he was not resigning, but suggested compensation for the stress caused and the loss of employment – this amounted to one year’s salary and holiday pay.

A letter on 20 October from the charity said that Short’s failure to return to work was a breach of his contract and his employment was terminated. A cheque for £1,198.60, representing outstanding wages, holiday pay and payment in lieu of notice, was included.

A complaint was made to the tribunal on 2 November 2016. Short said that, although he was contracted for morning work, it was "morally wrong" to force him to work on a morning when he had a window cleaning round, which he said the charity knew about.

The tribunal, which heard the case in March, found that the charity was right to deem this a breach of contract. But the tribunal found that the charity "failed to take any of the necessary steps before dismissing the claimant for refusing to attend for work".

The total compensation payable to Short for unfair dismissal was £1,612.30, but this was reduced by 50 per cent to £806.15 because of his conduct, the judgment says.

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