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Food scientist wins unfair dismissal claim after being sacked while caring for his wife who had cancer

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Ward v Arthur Branwell & Co. Limited Andrew Ward was a food chemist for food company Arthur Branwell, which is partly based in Braintree, and makes food additives. Mr Ward worked at the company for ten years as its sole analytical chemist.

In February 2019 Mr Ward’s wife was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The tribunal heard looking after his wife became Mr Ward’s priority and “she did not want anyone else but him looking after her”. Mr Ward had asked his employers for an unpaid sabbatical but this was refused.

He was told he could work from home 50 per cent of the time temporarily to care for her. However, his employers claimed “it became apparent that Mr Ward was doing very little work”. The tribunal heard it was “deeply distressing” for Mr Ward to be accused of taking their money while doing no, or little, work and being a full-time carer for his wife, because he had asked for unpaid time off.

An email later added he was required to return to work and failure to do so could lead to termination of employment. Mr Ward did not attend work. The company sent Mr Ward a ‘reprehensible’ letter which used ‘bombastic’ and ‘petty’ language, a tribunal found, and fired him for gross misconduct.

The chemist has now won compensation after the tribunal found he had been unfairly dismissed.

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