‘Bullied’ nurse wins unfair dismissal claim

Posted: 30th August 2013

Hospital CorridorTrust and confidence are central to any employment relationship, as a case involving a nurse who claimed to have been subjected to a course of bullying and harassment in the workplace showed when she won her unfair constructive dismissal claim.

The senior nurse had fulfilled a teaching role at a leading hospice which employed 270 people. There had been considerable correspondence concerning her return to work after she was signed off sick and she argued that a letter she received from the hospice during her absence was the ‘final straw’ in a sequence of bullying and harassment that led to her resignation.

Her claim was upheld by an employment tribunal which found that her employers had conducted themselves in a manner which destroyed or seriously damaged the parties’ relationship of trust and confidence. The hospice’s arguments that the nurse had simply resigned in order to go on a far eastern tour for which she had been denied leave of absence were rejected.

In challenging that ruling before the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), the hospice argued that the tribunal had strayed beyond the evidence, ruled on matters which had not been raised at the hearing and reached a ‘perverse’ conclusion that the hospice’s actions had been outside the band of reasonable responses.

However, in dismissing the hospice’s appeal on liability issues, the EAT paid tribute to the tribunal’s ‘lengthy and carefully crafted’ judgment and had no hesitation in rejecting arguments that the tribunal had impermissibly expanded the issues, given inadequate reasons for its decision or wrongly substituted its own subjective views for those of the employer.

The hospice’s appeal on quantum issues was also rejected, save that the EAT ruled that the tribunal had erred in making an award of just under £2,000 in respect of travel expenses. A deduction in that sum was accordingly made to the nurse’s compensatory award.