Unfairly dismissed charity worker was accused of a ‘catalogue of alleged misconduct’, tribunal heard


A charity worker was awarded £25,000 for wrongful dismissal amid claims she was “set up” by a group of her colleagues.

Hastings and Rother Voluntary Association for the Blind, a social care charity, was told to pay enhanced compensation to Tracy Britcher, a former manager, in January.

The employment tribunal published further details about the case last week.

Court documents show the charity brought disciplinary proceedings against Britcher in August 2021 over a “catalogue of alleged misconduct”, including claims she had made clandestine recordings of conversations with Fieona Farrier-Twist, her boss; failed to fulfil her duties under health and safety rules; and used her charity email address to create a fictitious Facebook account for spying on her daughter.

Disciplinary hearings did not take place until February 2022, when Britcher was dismissed from her job, but this decision was then reviewed on appeal and replaced with a written warning.

Britcher decided to withdraw her appeal and make a formal grievance against HRVAB before she knew the outcome of the case, the documents say.

Farrier-Twist and Britcher had been friendly, but their relationship “soured” in August 2021, according to the ruling.

The documents show that in June 2021 Britcher was at an internal meeting with a colleague who was about to leave the charity. That meeting “became heated” and both raised their voices so that other staff could hear them.

The ruling says an anonymous complaint about Britcher was made to the Care Quality Commission days after the meeting. The complaint was investigated by Farrier-Twist and was not upheld.

The judgment shows that, referring to an apparent dispute between Britcher and some colleagues, Farrier-Twist’s investigation concluded: “I am aware of issues with younger staff and following my investigations have had all of the concerns I had confirmed.”

A grievance was then raised against Britcher by the colleague who was at the June internal meeting, accusing Britcher of bullying.

Britcher asked to postpone the disciplinary meeting so that she could consult her union, but “Mrs Farrier-Twist was not well-pleased by the claimant’s request as she thought she was being difficult”, the ruling says.

“Mrs Farrier-Twist took umbrage with the claimant’s request to postpone the meeting and raised her voice and was excitable in her interaction, which the claimant perceived as aggressive,” it says.

Later the same day, Britcher decided to record a conversation with Farrier-Twist without her knowledge or consent.

“The claimant says that she recorded the conversation because she was concerned that allegations were being made against her and because of Mrs Farrier-Twist’s aggressive reaction towards her in their earlier interaction,” the tribunal judge found. “I accept that these were her reasons for recording the conversation.”

According to a transcript of this recording, reviewed by the court, “Mrs Farrier-Twist referred to the claimant being ‘set up’ by ‘the group’. I find that by ‘the group’ Mrs Farrier-Twist is referring to the more junior members of staff that both she and the claimant perceived as having an unprofessional attitude.”

The judge said: “I further find that Mrs Farrier-Twist was of the view that the allegations made against the claimant were baseless and were an attempt to set the claimant up by more junior members of staff.”

Allegations of misconduct “mounted” after Farrier-Twist learned that she had been secretly recorded, the documents say, including another referral from the CQC and a complaint from the relative of an HRVAB resident.

The judgment says: “The complaints raised were similar to those that had been raised against the claimant by ‘the group’ referred to by Mrs Farrier-Twist in the transcript of the recording.”

Britcher was suspended from her job in August and a disciplinary hearing was then carried out for the charity in early 2022 by Peninsula Face2Face, an HR consultancy.

A Peninsula employee wrote to Britcher in February 2022 upholding claims that she had breached health and safety rules as well as HRVAB’s internet policy by using her professional email to establish a fictitious Facebook account. The letter informed Britcher she had been dismissed from her job.

When Britcher appealed later that month, a different Peninsula consultant “concluded that dismissal was not within the band of reasonable responses and recommended that the claimant be reinstated and issued with a final written warning”, the judgment says.

But Britcher withdrew her appeal in April before being formally informed of that decision.

The tribunal judge concluded: “The respondent’s argument in respect of wrongful dismissal relied solely upon its assertion that there had been no dismissal by virtue of its attempt to reinstate the claimant.

“I have found that the claimant was dismissed. There is no dispute that if dismissed the claimant was dismissed without notice and I therefore find that she was wrongfully dismissed.”

He also ordered a 15 per cent uplift on compensation payments because HRVAB had breached code of conduct at Acas, the conflict resolution specialists.

HRVAB did not respond to a request for comment.

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