Case Study - Employment: Belinda's Story about redundancy, dismissal and Furlough Leave during Coronavirus
“Belinda’s struggles with repercussions of the Covid-19 Pandemic”
Situation: A woman employee is dismissed, rather than
being placed on Furlough Leave as promised,
following a downturn in her employers’ business,
during the Coronavirus Lockdown
Type of law: Employment – Unfair Dismissal
Lawyer: Lawson-West Solicitors - Employment Team
Belinda worked for a well-known retail outlet for over 17years. She worked as an online account manager. Belinda was responsible, along with her colleagues Adam, John and Becky for handling the retail outlet's online orders.
Prior to the Coronavirus, Belinda had endured a turbulent relationship with the CEO. It was well known that the CEO had a bad temper where he had been known to shout and swear at some of the employees. Belinda had always tried her best to work hard avoiding any attention being drawn her way.
As the UK became hit with the Covid-19 outbreak, many of the company’s businesses became affected. Belinda’s role, one that was undertaken via the internet, was not affected.
After it was announced the United Kingdom was required to follow strict Lockdown rules, which prevented people from going to work unless absolutely necessary, Belinda’s employer called her to advise that she would be required to take Furlough Leave.
Furlough Leave is a special leave that had been introduced by the Government to support businesses and its employees. Belinda was informed that she would still be required to work her usual hours, but would only receive the 80% payment that the Government granted.
Belinda was uncertain of the rules regarding Furlough Leave and therefore questioned if it was ok to work at the same time and asked why she would not receive her full wages, if she was working her full contracted hours.
The CEO flew into a fit of rage. He began shouting “this is my company and I will do what I like” along with several other expletives. Belinda felt afraid. She called her line manager who advised her to return home where he would speak with the CEO and resolve the matter.
Shortly after she arrived home, still very shook-up, she received a telephone call from her line manager advising that it had been agreed that she would be placed on Furlough Leave and that she would not have to work. Before Belinda could ask why she had been placed on Furlough Leave given that her role and workload had not been affected by the Coronavirus, it had, in fact, increased due to the closure of retail outlets, her line manager terminated the call.
- Belinda called back to raise the question and the CEO answered her call. Belinda tried to discuss her queries where she was advised she would receive a letter shortly setting out the details of the leave.
After a few days, Belinda received a letter from the employer. She opened believing it would be about the Furlough Leave however, it was a letter of termination of employment. The employer set-out that her role had been made redundant and that as a result she had been dismissed. This was different from the treatment of her work colleagues and she knew she had been singled-out.
- In retaliation, Belinda called the CEO and swore at him down the telephone and posted inappropriate content about him on social media, not helping her own situation.
What could Belinda do?
Belinda began by searching the internet for advice and she came across Lawson West Solicitors.
She met with our expert employment lawyers where it was explained that there were several avenues to explore. Initially, Lawson West advised her to raise an appeal against the dismissal, in particular the selection criteria and pool that had been adopted for the redundancy as it was evident that it had not been conducted fairly. Belinda worked as part of a team, none of whom had been placed either on Furlough Leave or made redundant. Secondly, if there was a suggestion of a downturn in work due to the Coronavirus then the Government’s Furlough Scheme was in place to prevent redundancies, thus it could be explored.
It is very tough for businesses currently within the Coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty and change have brought about all new problems that no one had a plan for. Businesses are being run by people who are exceptionally stressed, tired and afraid. Whilst there is a huge level of sympathy for businesses, it does not mean that you are able to stray away from Employment Law. Unfairly selecting an employee for either Furlough Leave, or redundancy is unfair and against Employment Law provisions.
It is important not to make rash, emotional decisions at this time, particularly ones that can led to repercussions. Whether you are the employer or employee you need to ensure you make the right people-making decisions, based upon the right information. If the company owner is too upset to think clearly, arrange a working party to offer guidance and assistance.
That said, in this instance the decision to dismiss Belinda is quite clearly unfair. She has been selected for personal reasons by the CEO. This is not in line with Employment Law. However, Belinda’s reaction could be justification for a company to commence a disciplinary process against her and as she was still employment at the time of the call (serving her notice) the company could in fact dismiss her if she was found guilty of an act of gross misconduct. This again comes down to making emotional decisions that can have consequences.
At Lawson West Solicitors we can make the emotional decision for you. Don’t risk getting it wrong. Don’t let the emotion you are feeling at that moment cause you further upset and detriment by having to defend yourself or go through litigation. In the case of Belinda, we could happily assist with some early intervention to avoid full litigation where possible, or continue a claim through to the Employment Tribunal if necessary, where she would no doubt be awarded compensation.
This case study is provided as example only and is based on the types of employment law case managed by Lawson-West. All names and situation details have been changed to protect the individuals and the employers. Please note that this is a basic overview only and should not be construed or relied upon as advice. Lawson-West Solicitors Limited accepts no duty of care to any third party in connection with this case study. You are encouraged to seek legal advice for your own set of circumstances and actions may differ from those illustrated.
If you are facing difficulties at work and need supportive advice, please contact any of our Solicitors in the Employment Team at Lawson-West Solicitors. We're here to help.
Contact Us here.
This case study is provided as example only and is based on the types of employment law case managed by Lawson-West. All names and situation details have been changed to protect the individuals and the employers. Please note that this is a basic overview only and should not be construed or relied upon as advice. Lawson-West Solicitors Limited accepts no duty of care to any third party in connection with this case study. You are encouraged to seek legal advice for your own set of circumstances and actions may differ from those illustrated.View all