Nuffield Health ordered to pay thousands to ex-employee in discrimination ruling

09 Jul 2024 News

Adobe, by Vitalii Vodolazskyi

A tribunal has ordered one of the UK’s largest charities, Nuffield Health, to pay a former employee more than £20,000 for unfair dismissal and indirect discrimination.

The employment tribunal, heard in Edinburgh, ruled that Polish former Nuffield Health employee Mrs Kral was unfairly dismissed and ordered the charity to pay £8,463 in compensation.

Kral’s complaint of indirect race discrimination also succeeded and Nuffield Health was ordered to pay £11,500, plus interest of £1,026, by way of compensation for injury to feelings.

Complaints of wrongful dismissal and unauthorised deductions from wages were dismissed, after being withdrawn.

Dispute over ‘resignation’

The tribunal documents state that while Kral has a basic grasp of English, she relies heavily on her daughters to assist her with translation.

Translation arrangements were put in place for all meetings in the workplace.

As a result of difficult working relationships, at the start of 2023, Kral started to look for alternative employment.

She had an interview, and told the tribunal she spoke to a colleague about getting a reference.

A dispute then arose about whether she had resigned or not. Kral said though she had asked for a reference if she was offered the job, she had not resigned. The charity said she had resigned.

The tribunal found that Kral did not resign during the discussion and any belief that she had was mistaken.

Its judgment says the charity “did not take appropriate steps to clarify the position with the claimant – either by asking her to provide written notice, as required by her contract, or timeously acknowledging her purported resignation”.

It adds that on becoming aware that there was a misunderstanding, the charity took no steps to remedy the situation, but merely insisted that the claimant had resigned and that her employment would therefore terminate.

“No reasonable employer would have acted in this manner,” the tribunal documents add.

The tribunal concluded that the claimant was, instead, dismissed by the healthcare charity on 11 May 2023.

“The claimant was devastated to have lost her job,” the document reads.

“She was distressed and lacked confidence for a number of months. She was extremely worried she would not be able to secure alternative employment and was concerned about how to meet financial commitments.”

Oral resignation practice 

The tribunal concluded that the charity had a practice of accepting oral resignations, which would put those who do not have English as a first language at a particular disadvantage, in comparison with those whose first language is English.

It adds that where someone does not have English as their first language, there is a “significant risk of misunderstandings, with potentially serious consequences”.

A Nuffield Health spokesperson told Civil Society: “At Nuffield Health we are focused on creating an inclusive culture, where everyone feels they belong and can thrive.

“While the judgement in this case didn't find direct discrimination, by not requiring a written resignation, our process caused confusion which the judge ruled amounted to indirect discrimination.

“We acknowledge and accept the ruling, and we are reviewing our policies to ensure lessons have been learnt. We wish Mrs Kral well in the future.”

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