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NHS worker wins constructive wrongful dismissal claim

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In Mrs R Bonney v Medway NHS Foundation Trust and Mr D McLaren a hospital trust wrongfully ousted an under-pressure project manager from her role after implying she was incompetent and “not up to the challenge”.

Employment tribunal judge Daniel Dyal ruled Medway NHS Foundation Trust constructively dismissed Rosemary Bonney, and that former bosses gave “factually untrue” evidence.

Rosemary Bonney joined Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham in April 2019 as a project manager, initially in acute medicine. At this time the trust had just come out of special measures but was still operating in a state of “general chaos” and “partial dysfunction”, the tribunal heard.

This led to mistakes and confusion in the role that Mrs Bonney was told she was appointed to and asked to perform.

Her claim for constructive wrongful dismissal against former bosses was upheld at a hearing held in London last month but separate claims for race discrimination and a redundancy payment were dismissed.

The trust has since accepted the findings and apologised to Mrs Bonney.

It comes after a merry-go-round of roles were initially offered to the claimant at interview who joined the hospital on April 15, 2019.

In her evidence to the tribunal, Mrs Bonney said she was relaxed about which role she undertook but was more pleased to be working in acute medicine rather than therapies and older persons (TOPs) as it would help her career development.

But in September 2019 a decision was taken to swap her with another staff member in the TOPs team.

Douglas McLaren, formerly general manager for acute and emergency medicine, said he felt Mrs Bonney was not “operationally strong enough for the coming challenges” and the fast-paced nature of the department.

Mrs Bonney was “stunned and extremely upset” by the unexpected criticism of her performance, the tribunal heard.

She sought clarification over this but the former health boss did not give any specific examples other than her handling of work rotas.

The tribunal found no evidence of performance issues to warrant the criticism.

Following the tribunal’s judgement, both parties will seek to agree a remedy and if not, a further hearing will take place at a later date.

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