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Beautician wins unfair dismissal claim after being sacked for ‘toxic’ behaviour

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead Burton

In the case of Ms C Lickfold v Firvale Clinic Limited the Southampton employment tribunal heard Ms Lickfold worked at Firvale from June 2015 until she was dismissed via WhatsApp in April 2022.

Firvale performs laser treatments, fat removals, wrinkle smoothing, and was founded by former NHS doctor Dr Berry in 2008.

Dr Berry previously showered Ms Lickfold with compliments for her work, telling her ‘I think of you as my work daughter’, and would praise her loyalty.

However, the relationship started to sour in November 2021 when the clinic moved to its current address and Ms Lickfold became unhappy with Dr Berry.

In text messages to a friend, Ms Lickfold said ‘I literally did absolutely everything to move this clinic’ and that Dr Berry went on holiday to Tenerife without saying thank you.

She called Dr Berry an ‘a***’, said she could ‘take her to court over how she has been behaving’, and even complained she ‘shoved £500 in my bank account’ as a bonus.

The tribunal found Dr Berry subsequently ‘tried to make things right’ as she was concerned about Ms Lickfold’s negative attitude.

At the Christmas party in 2021, the tribunal heard Ms Lickfold insulted an unnamed colleague.

The woman told the hearing: ‘At one point myself, Ana, Lindsey White [an ex-colleague] and Chrissie were in the bathroom where I was being asked questions about my figure by them.

‘Chrissie returned to the table, announced how it was “hilarious how much my breasts hang low” and that she had larger breasts than me but despite hers being larger “[the unnamed colleague’s] hang lower”.

The comments by ‘churlish’ practice manager Ms Lickfold – who also clashed with other colleagues – made the junior member of staff feel ‘humiliated’, the hearing was told.

The employment tribunal heard Ms Lickfold initially went unpunished for the rude joke, but she was later sacked from Firvale Clinic in Southampton, Hampshire, for ‘toxic’ behaviour.

Employment Judge James Dawson said ‘A complaint had been made by Ms Oliveira and by [the unnamed staff member] following the Christmas party. Ms Lickfold was entitled to be given the opportunity to have her say on those issues, in the context of knowing that the clinic was unhappy with her and considering dismissing her for that reason’.

‘In fact, at no time did she know that the clinic was considering dismissing her. She should have been warned that if relationships did not improve, she may be dismissed. Time should have been allowed for the relationships to improve’.

‘I accept that Dr Berry had a genuine and reasonable belief that [Ms Lickfold] was behaving badly in the way she behaved towards her and other members of staff. However, she did not carry out a sufficient investigation and the process it carried out was not fair’.

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