Tribunal finds that St Mungo's victimised former staff member

Leigh Andrews took her case to the employment tribunal after being refused work as a locum worker for the charity because of bullying allegations made and then dropped 14 years before

(Photograph: Jonathan Goldberg/Alamy)
(Photograph: Jonathan Goldberg/Alamy)

The homelessness charity St Mungo’s victimised a former staff member over an equal pay claim and abandoned a bullying investigation from 14 years beforehand, an employment tribunal has ruled.

In a hearing at East London Hearing Centre on 24 May, Leigh Andrews, who used to work for Broadway before its merger with St Mungo’s in 2014, claimed victimisation after she was refused work as a locum worker for the charity because of allegations made and then dropped during a previous spell working for the charity in 2004.

The charity said it would appeal against the ruling.

Andrews told the tribunal that she was called into a meeting in April 2004 shortly after handing in her notice so she could move to Oldham for a new job. The meeting was conducted by Alison Luker, head of matrix services at the charity.

The meeting was to discuss bullying allegations that had been made against Andrews by her manager, Caroline Tudor. It was decided at the meeting not to pursue a disciplinary investigation of the claims.

Helen Giles, who oversaw the preliminary investigation of Andrews, had recommended a formal investigation, which the tribunal said Luker decided against.

Andrews also made an equal pay claim in August 2004, but it was not taken further after her departure from the charity.

Andrews returned to work with St Mungo’s between July 2017 and June 2018 as a freelance consultant, and in May 2018 successfully applied to be one of the charity’s bank of locum workers. She was also told she could be considered for management roles in the future.

The request was run past Giles, who told the tribunal she immediately recalled the bullying allegations against Andrews because "they had been so extreme", Giles told the tribunal.

The tribunal decided that Giles’s description of the allegations against Andrews was "difficult to reconcile" with the description of what allegedly happened, which included cold shouldering, excluding Tudor from team meetings, questioning her decisions in front of others, ignoring instructions and making snide comments.

Andrews received an email from the charity on 8 June 2018 that said her offer of locum work was being withdrawn because of information about her previous employment at Broadway. The tribunal said Andrews replied asking for more information.

A reply drafted by Giles to Andrews’ request and sent on 15 June said: "We do not offer employment or work via our locum bank to any ex-employee of the organisation or any predecessor organisation either where they were previously subject to a disciplinary action or they resigned from/left the organisation at a time when a disciplinary investigation was under way."

The tribunal decided that the first email on 8 June was "deliberately unspecific and equivocal", and that it was inaccurate to say in the second email on 15 June that the charity had been intending to push ahead with a disciplinary investigation.

The tribunal found that the decision to revoke Andrews’ employment was likely to have been aken by Giles and Howard Sinclair, the chief executive. It said that "we consider it equally likely that they discussed the earlier equal pay proceedings and that this formed at least part of their reason for revoking the offer".

A spokeswoman for St Mungo’s said: "In light of the evidence, we and our legal team are extremely surprised at the employment tribunal’s finding and will be appealing through the legal process."

A remedy hearing is scheduled to take place on 6 August.

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