Published 06 November 2019
When good news eventually comes after some really bad news.
At some stage we’ve probably all been faced with the question: what do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
In this scenario, we will do the good news first. Newlywed Emma was delighted when she discovered she was pregnant with her first child. She had previously been told by doctors that she could not have children.
Now, for the bad news, Emma was just out of her probationary period at work when she told her bosses her good news - and she was sacked shortly afterwards. The telesales worker was understandably heartbroken at being dismissed.
The working environment was demanding, fast-paced and unforgiving. It was not unusual for staff to be berated in front of others, for any formal grievance to be discarded or for an employee to be dismissed unceremoniously.
In fact, Emma was aware of a former colleague who went off on maternity leave and never returned. Rumour had it she reached a settlement agreement with the company after she started legal proceedings to sue for unfair dismissal and discrimination.
Understandably Emma feared the worse, but after discussing matters with her husband and family she eventually decided to tell her manager.
To her surprise he was delighted for her, offered what appeared sincere congratulations and told Emma if she ever needed anything to let him know.
Just over a week later Emma was summoned to her manager’s office. He enquired how she was, before delivering a bombshell that she had been underperforming for a considerable time and would need to explain herself at a disciplinary hearing. The hearing was arranged for the following morning.
Emma was distraught. She called in work sick the following day and asked for the hearing to be rearranged for a time until she was fit enough to attend. Her manager said he would get back to her.
Later that afternoon she got an email with the subject matter ‘disciplinary hearing outcome’. Attached was a letter that informed Emma she had been dismissed for refusing to attend the disciplinary hearing and therefore it went ahead in her absence.
Devastated Emma sought advice from a family friend and she submitted a disciplinary appeal and a grievance for discrimination.
She was later told that as she was an ex-employee the company would not hear her grievance. Emma was told that she should present it as part of her appeal.
When Emma was given a date for the appeal hearing she exercised her right to be accompanied. She asked a former colleague, who was still employed by the company and had some legal training, to attend with her and he agreed to do so.
About 48 hours before the hearing he informed Emma he could not do it. He had been warned off by management. Desperate Emma contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.
Our representative was appalled by the way in which Emma had been treated. Emma sent him the relevant paperwork by email, and they discussed her case at length over the phone, including her desired outcome.
Emma said she had lost trust and confidence in the company; her husband had secured a promotion with a substantial pay rise, and so her preferred outcome was a settlement with the dismissal removed from her record.
At the appeal hearing our representative argued the process and decision to dismiss were grossly unfair and discriminatory. The company maintained it had acted fairly.
After a long and fractious meeting, a promising discussion took place about a settlement. The terms could not be agreed on the day.
After a subsequent period of discussion and negotiation an agreement was reached. It included a five-figure financial payment and the dismissal removed from Emma’s record.
Emma gave birth to a healthy baby and later went on to secure a customer service role before being promoted to a team leader.
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