Camden UNISON wins compensation for unfairly sacked drugs worker

A drugs worker whose probation period was unfairly terminated won a five-figure compensation payment after his appeal was upheld, following a 94% indicative vote in favour of strike action in the youth offending service and FWD drugs service if the appeal was not successful.

The worker’s probationary period was due to end on 11 August.

The Management Guidance Notes for completing Probationary Reports during the Probationary Period state clearly:

“If you have any concerns about an employee’s assessment, this is likely to become clear by the 3rd month.  You need to discuss your concerns with the Personnel Consultancy Team for your division immediately.  PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTIL BETWEEN THE 4th and 5th MONTH OR WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT SUPERVISION OR PROBATIONARY ASSESSMENT MEETING.”

No issues of performance or conduct were raised with the worker during his probationary service until 6 August 2008, just four working days before his six months’ probation was due to end. At this point, management raised the procedures which the worker had been following and advised him that he should be following different guidance. This guidance had not been advised previously.

The member was quite happy to follow the new guidance which he had now been given. Clearly the fair course for action would have been for his probationary service to be extended for a limited period, say three months, so that his performance could be properly assessed. This is quite frequently done in relation to probationary staff.

However, the member was not given this opportunity and at the end of his six months he was advised that his appointment would not be confirmed and that his employment would therefore be terminated.

UNISON members in the section believe that the issues raised with the member’s work were entirely due to lack of clarity from management on his role, and that he should therefore be reinstated and granted a three-month extension to his probationary period. And therefore requested an indicative ballot for a one-day strike if he were not reinstated at appeal. The indicative ballot returned a 94% vote in favour of action on a 70% turnout.

An appeal hearing was held in October, where the member was supported by a Camden UNISON rep and his appeal was upheld.

Before the member, who is Australian, was due to return to work an issue was raised with his work visa as the job role was not on the list of professions in shortage for which workers outside the EU can be hired. So the member accepted a five figure cash settlement in lieu of reinstatement.

In e-mail to UNISON the member stated:
I am overjoyed.  It has been a long, frustrating and stressful process, and despite my conviction that my non-confirmation was unwarranted, the success of the appeal would not have been possible without UNISON and all of you that expressed your support.   Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, it was reassuring for me to know that the people that I worked closely with believed that I did my job well and went out of their way to let me know.  That 94% of you voted that you were willing to lose a day’s pay to demonstrate your support was amazing and much more than I expected or would have dared to ask for.

This success has been more than just about me, and I would like to echo John’s sentiment that united we stand a better chance of ensuring that we are treated fairly and have a greater sense of security in the workplace.  I would like to thank everyone at UNISON, especially my representative Barry Walden, John Shepherd and Monica Morris-Jarra.  I have only positive things to say about their representation and the way that they have handled my situation with sensitivity and professionalism.  I would wholeheartedly urge anyone who hasn’t done so to join UNISON.

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