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Vet dismissed for raising Covid concerns wins unfair dismissal case

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Rendina v Royston Veterinary Centre Limited, Ms Charlotte Rendina worked at Royston Veterinary Centre as an assistant veterinary surgeon from 20 January 2020 until her dismissal on 30 March 2020. She raised several Health and Safety issues with the practice manager such as the lack of measures in place to protect staff from Covid-19, whether staff could limit patients to one per consultation and requesting to wear a mask as she was asthmatic.

Royston Veterinary Practice operates from two locations and employed approximately 15 people at the relevant time. Dr White is the only Director of the company and is the principle shareholder. Mrs Young is the Practice Manager.

Ms Rendina is of joint nationality, both Italian and British. She has family in Italy. Coronavirus in Europe emerged first in Italy and there were worrying and distressing reports from Italy during late February and early March 2020.

On 16 March 2020, (the day the Government asked people to avoid non-essential contact and travel)

there was a meeting of all staff in the practice chaired by Dr White at which he said that Covid-19 was like cold and flu and was being over hyped by the press and that there was no need for signs or notices at the practice and no need for hand sanitisers or wipes.

Ms Rendina subsequently attended a webinar organised by the British Veterinary Association and passed on their Covid advice to Mr White. The UK went into lockdown and Mr White sent a text stating that the practice would be open as normal. Ms Rendina was uneasy and wanted time to consult with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, (RCVS) the regulatory body of vets.

On 30 March 2020, Dr White met with Ms Rendina without warning at the end of her shift. He informed her that she was dismissed. He said that they had reached a level of discord that was not amenable.

At the hearing he claimed she was dismissed due to ‘client complaints, lateness and not completing records correctly’. However, the tribunal panel found he was ‘irritated’ by her, and concluded: ‘The cause of that irritation was Ms Rendina raising concerns about the arrangements in place to protect herself, her colleagues and visitors to the premises from the spread of the coronavirus.’

Ms Rendina will now be entitled to compensation to be negotiated between herself and Dr White.

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