Calling time on unfair work pressure
Published 16 October 2019
We can all suffer from work-related stress from time-to-time and how Fatima reacted to it left her facing the threat of dismissal.
The senior care home worker was alleged to have snapped at her boss and to have breached her employment contract.
A disciplinary hearing heard that Fatima ‘completely blew her top’ and was aggressive and intimidating during an incident with her manager.
She had worked six back-to-back 12 hour shifts when she was asked to work another shorter shift, starting just seven hours later. Fatima was exhausted, and she refused.
The other allegation Fatima faced at her disciplinary hearing, was that she was involved in a business venture without the consent of her employer, which was a breach of her employment contract.
This allegation came to light after her manager spotted a social media post by Fatima’s sister, which it was believed showed both were actively involved in a business enterprise.
When Fatima contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre she was furious with her employer.
She accepted being upset with her manager and raising her voice after her manager made an implied threat about what could happen if she refused the shift.
Fatima also explained that her sister ran a property development business and she helped her with decorating a high ceiling at a property on one occasion. Her sister posted an image on social media and captioned it ‘taking our business to new heights.’
During the conversation that Fatima had with our representative she explained that she was contracted to work 40 hours a week. She said she had not chosen to do more than her contracted hours or to do overtime.
She had felt forced to work the back-to-back shifts after her manager pointed out that Fatima had seen what had happened to others who had left after refusing to help.
Fatima had some text messages from her manager to back up her claims. It was decided to raise a formal grievance on her behalf.
The grounds for the grievance included that Fatima felt bullied to work excessive hours and that she was being victimised by way of disciplinary action after reasonably refusing to work in breach of the Working Time Regulations.
The grievance asked that the disciplinary process be suspended in accordance with section 46 of the ACAS Code of Practice because if the grievance was upheld it could have ramifications for the disciplinary process .
The company refused to do so and said it would hear both cases on the same day and hear the grievance first.
For the disciplinary hearing the allegations against Fatima were inappropriate and unprofessional attitude towards management and working in breach of her contract.
During the grievance hearing it was asserted that the disciplinary action being taken against Fatima was grossly unfair, because she was put under undue pressure to work excessive and illegal hours.
The grievance hearing chair was presented with copies of text messages that Fatima received from her manager about working extra hours. The messages were used to demonstrate the unreasonable pressure she was put under to do so.
Our representative said the allegation of Fatima working in breach of her contract could have been disproved with basic investigation. The hearing chair was provided with details from Companies House that showed Fatima's sister was the sole owner of the business, widely advertised in her social media posts. Our representative said the allegation was malicious.
In terms of Fatima’s desired outcome to the grievance it was simply to stop the disciplinary process and to be allowed to return to work. She was also willing to work with her manager to address any issues that had come to light during both cases.
The grievance hearing chair was reasonable and agreed that a pragmatic approach would be best. He agreed to stop the disciplinary process so he could investigate if it was possible to resolve all matters.
The company eventually decided to scrap the disciplinary process and Fatima later took part in successful mediation with her manager.
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