A church charity has been ordered to pay £11,000 to a former member of staff after the employment tribunal upheld his claim for unfair dismissal.
A former operations manager at Holy Trinity Barnes in south-west London was treated in a manner “likely to seriously damage the underlying relationship of trust and confidence” between him and the charity, a judge found.
The tribunal dismissed a second claim for unfair and wrongful dismissal brought by another member of staff.
Mr Boyton, who worked at HT Barnes from 2011 until he resigned in 2020, is entitled to a basic award, compensation and damages.
The judge said he was not satisfied that the Reverend David Cooke had “reasonable and proper cause” when removing professional responsibilities from Boyton and that a disagreement over banking rules at the church may have been “a last straw” for the complainant
But the tribunal did not uphold complaints about Boyton’s exclusion from some decisions or the way a grievance was handled, which the judge said was in line with ACAS guidance on resolving employment disputes.
The judge also accepted that Boyton had accessed and read colleagues’ emails when he had no permission to do so.
Tribunal documents say that Boyton had “wide-ranging” responsibilities as operations manager at the church, including recording and sharing weekly sermons.
The court heard that, as the first Covid-19 lockdown began in March 2020, Cooke emailed staff to say that “all decisions about printed materials, online materials, all [church] emails” should go via his deputy.
The judgement says that this email “did remove part of Mr Boyton’s job role” and that, while the decision may have been appropriate, “the matter should have been discussed with Mr Boyton first before being included in an email to all staff”.
The judge also said that Cooke’s decision not to involve Boyton in meetings about the church’s potential switch to online banking “could be said to damage trust and confidence to a degree” even if it did not meet the threshold for seriously damaging the relationship.
But given the tensions caused by the prior removal of responsibilities “it is capable of contributing to a series of acts amounting to a breach of trust and confidence. In short, it could be a valid ‘last straw’”, the judge decided.
The tribunal dismissed complaints brought by another employee, although the judge said that while an email describing “a seismic relational breakdown” between them and the charity “was somewhat overstating matters, it was not doing so to a great degree”.
The charity has been ordered to pay Boyton £4,493 as a basic award, £832 in compensation and £5,684 in damages.
HT Barnes said it did not wish to comment on the judgment.