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M&S worker wins unfair dismissal case after confrontation with customer over wearing a face mask

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Mrs D Daisy v Marks and Spencer Plc a Leeds tribunal was told Mrs Daisy went off work due to ‘high levels’ of anxiety and ‘severe’ depression in January 2021 after she confronted a shopper who refused to wear a mask. Deborah Daisy was verbally abused by the ‘aggressive’ man while working for the retail giant in November 2020, an employment tribunal heard.

The hearing was told this ‘traumatic’ event affected her mental health and brought back past incidents, namely an armed robbery and her chasing a shoplifter out of the shop to a bus stop. Mrs Daisy had not received training in dealing with crime, the panel was told, and she went off sick for five months with anxiety and depression caused by safety at work fears.

The tribunal heard that during this time, Mrs Daisy complained about M&S’ ‘lack of action’ over the incidents and that she still felt ‘vulnerable’ being in store. She was then sacked after M&S concluded there were no adjustments that could be made to facilitate her return to work, so she launched a claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Employment Judge Timothy Knowles concluded: ‘It was in my conclusion outside of the band of reasonable responses which might have been adopted by an employer acting reasonably to dismiss without sharing the findings about the issues she had raised in relation to her personal safety and engaging with [Mrs Daisy] about how her personal safety fears may be addressed in future….

‘I am surprised that those matters were not explored with [her] given that [Marks and Spencer Plc] is a well-resourced retailer in the UK and given that the plight of shopworkers and the abuse they suffer at work is generally well known.’

Mrs Daisy will be awarded compensation in due course, however this will be reduced by 25 per cent as the tribunal found it was likely she would have eventually been dismissed in any event.

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