Kelly Moore was employed as a catering assistant with retail outlet Cameron’s, in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
Despite working for the company for 12 years, she was dismissed by her employer after taking some time off work due to ill health.
In circumstances where employees are absent due to ill-health, an employer will risk unfairly dismissing an employee unless they act reasonably. This will typically, as well as obtaining up to date medical evidence, include a requirement to consult with the employee regarding the nature of the illness prior to dismissal.
Ms Moore contacted her trade union, the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union (BFAWU), who worked with employment law experts at Thompsons NI to argue that the dismissal was unfair.
Thompsons NI made the case that Cameron’s failed to properly consult Ms Moore in order to gain more information about her illness, and so forth.
Additionally, it was argued that the employer did not follow a fair procedure; Ms Moore was not told that she was vulnerable to dismissal. She was also not given the opportunity to explain her case in a meeting where she could have used her right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or a colleague.
After a period of negotiations, terms of settlement were accepted by the employer before the matter had to reach a hearing before the industrial tribunal, including an agreement that the employer should pay Ms Moore compensation.
Ms Moore said: “I am pleased with the outcome and that the matter has resolved. I want to thank the Employment Rights Unit at Thompsons NI for all their support.”
Laura Graham, Northern Ireland Regional Officer of BFAWU, said: “The BFAWU supports employees in the food and allied industry and we were able to support Kelly when she found herself dismissed by her employer Cameron’s of Ballymena. Through the exceptional work of our legal services, Thompsons NI Solicitors, our member received compensation for the dismissal.
“With BFAWU Trade Union membership and our links to employment law services, Kelly was able to go through this process with full support and assistance at each and every stage. While we may not have a recognition agreement with the member’s employer, her membership ensured she had the access to our legal services she required in her time of need. The BFAWU would like to thank Thompsons NI Solicitors for their successful outcome in this case.”
If you have been involved in a workplace dispute or feel you were unfairly dismissed, speak to your union who will be advised by our expert team of employment rights specialists.
In Northern Ireland, legislation provides for a three step procedure to be followed when dismissing employees, which is known as the “Statutory Dismissal and Disciplinary Procedure” (“SDDP”). If this procedure is not followed, then, save in limited prescribed situations, the dismissal is “automatically unfair”.
The employer must explain in writing why they intend to dismiss their employee. This must then be sent to the employee.
A meeting must be held at a suitable time and place before any action is taken by the employer. The employee should know the reason for the statement, as described in step 1. At the meeting, the employee must be given a chance to explain their case. The employer must also be able to give their side of the story. Only after this meeting can a decision be made.
If the employee is not happy with the decision and wishes to appeal, the employer must hold a further meeting to hear the appeal on a similar basis to the meeting described in step 2.