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Pharmacy assistant gets £10k payout after unfair dismissal

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In Miss M Yule v Health Hut Professionals Limited an employment tribunal has ruled that a pharmacy assistant is entitled to £9,867 from her former employer after it found she had been unfairly dismissed.

The award was made to Angela Yule in a tribunal heard in Newcastle by employment judge Pamela Arullendran on September 28. She considered nearly 300 pages of documents concerning the end of Ms Yule’s employment at Health Hut Pharmacy in Morpeth, Northumberland earlier this year.

Ms Yule, who began working for the award-winning pharmacy in October 2017, was dismissed by company director Nadeem Shah during a heated exchange in which he told her to “go downstairs, hand her keys over and to leave,” according to tribunal documents.

This followed a disagreement between the two over the handling of an anonymous complaint sent to the pharmacy on January 31 “about the way the customer had been spoken to by a female member of staff,” but which did not provide any other details about the staff member.

Mr Shah narrowed the dates in question down to January 28-29 and contacted locum pharmacist Hafsana Begum, who was working on those days. She advised him that Ms Yule had dealt with a rude customer on the telephone but emphasised that her behaviour “had not been in any way inappropriate”.

He asked Ms Begum to speak to Ms Yule about the incident. This alarmed the latter as she could not recall the telephone call but was aware of other complaints received by the pharmacy on those days, when she was one of three members of staff present.

She felt singled out by Mr Shah, who in her view had “wanted her out of the business for a while”. A series of WhatsApp messages between her and Mr Shah on February 4 was followed by a meeting on February 8 that was also attended by business manager Jonathan Dolan.

Mr Shah and Mr Dolan advised Ms Yule that no staff member was being blamed for the anonymous complaint, but she still objected to how the investigation was being carried out.

It was during this heated conversation that Mr Shah told Ms Yule she no longer worked for the company, the tribunal heard.

The company accepted that any dismissal of Ms Yule on February 8 would have been unfair in the circumstances as the proper procedures were not followed – but denied having dismissed her, with Mr Dolan claiming that his understanding was that the matter had been resolved and she would be returning to work.

The company tried to pay Ms Yule for the months of January and February and to arrange disciplinary hearings with her, but these were declined “because she believed that such payments were fraudulent as she had already been dismissed”.

Judge Arullendran rejected the company’s evidence, citing messages sent to Ms Yule by colleagues indicating that Mr Shah had advised them she was leaving the business.

The judge commented: “All the attempts by the respondent after February 8 to arrange disciplinary hearings and to pay wages to the claimant as if she were still employed were a cynical attempt to try and cover up its mistake and put right mistakes it had made when the claimant was summarily dismissed.”

She added that Mr Shah’s evidence was “not truthful” and had “attempted to rewrite history in order to suit his own narrative”.

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