Accountant mum wins £13,000 unfair dismissal caseby
A trainee accountant won more than £13,000 in an unfair dismissal claim against her employer after she was sacked for collecting her sick child from school.
Accountancy trainee Catherine Henderson won £13,080.55 after she was fired for leaving work at Livingstone-based AccountsNet to pick up her sick child from school.
After receiving the emergency, Henderson was forced to abandon ship to collect her child who suffered from an ongoing underlying health condition.
She was dismissed from the firm four days later after being signed off work due to stress.
Henderson was employed by as a trainee by AccountsNet during October 2019 on a full time salary of £18,000.
Just two months later, she informed the firm that her child had an underlying health condition would require medical attention and additional support and care from her should the need arise.
In January, Henderson was forced to stay home from work and take care of her sick child. Her three days of absence were recorded by AccountsNet as compassionate leave for the first day and unpaid leave for the subsequent two days.
During this time, Henderson and the practice manager of the firm had a call to discuss what support AccountsNet could provide to help with the issue.
A flexible working pattern of 9am-3pm with no lunch break was agreed so that Henderson would be able to collect her child from school each day and then be with them at home.
They agreed that this would continue until 2 March, when they would review it again.
When the time came, the firm informed her that she would no longer be able to sustain this working arrangement; the report states that the practice manager described Henderson’s hours as “having a detrimental effect on the business”.
Henderson claimed that she was unable to work full-time and that she had rights in respect of flexible working, which the firm said it would consider.
Later that same day, Henderson received a message from her child’s school informing her that her child was sick and needed collecting straightaway.
With no managers available in the office at the time, Henderson informed her colleagues that she was leaving, sent a text to the practice manager informing her of the emergency situation, and left work to care for her child.
A few days later, the manager received a message from Henderson’s GP stating that she was unwell and officially signing her off work for the next two weeks.
On 6 March, AccountsNet wrote to Henderson officially terminating her employment. The reasons for her dismissal were:
- Her attendance, as the firm noted she had taken five days unpaid leave and 12 days sickness absence.
- The firm claimed Henderson had failed to follow the absence notification procedure, as she texted rather than called her manager when she had to leave the office.
- Leaving to care for her sick child without authorisation was also considered as “gross misconduct” by the firm.
- AccountsNet considered Henderson’s response to its insistence that she work full-time “abrasive and disappointing”.
Henderson was not provided with a right of appeal, though she did write to her ex-employers a week later advising that she felt her dismissal was unfair.
She then sued AccountsNet for unfair dismissal.
The tribunal determined that the principal reason for Henderson’s absences were to look after her sick child and that she made her reasons for leaving clear to her manager “as soon as was reasonably practicable”. Time off for dependants leave is among the presecribed circumstances that can lead to unfair dismissals, so in spite of her short time of service with the firm, Henderson’s claim for unfair dismissal was upheld.
AccountsNet was ordered to grant her £13,080.55 for loss of earnings and loss of statutory rights.