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In the case of Joyce v Mr M England ET1601693/2019 the Employment Tribunal held that a female employee had been subjected to an extended campaign of sexual harassment and that she was unfairly dismissed after going on sick leave.

The facts in Joyce v Mr M England

Miss S Joyce (the “Claimant”) worked for Mr M England (the “Respondent”) at Café Cwtch as a Café Assistant from 1 August 2016 until her employment was ended summarily on 12 September 2019.  She worked for 30 hours a week receiving the minimum wage; however, during the course of her employment she received no written contract of employment or statement of particulars, nor was she enrolled in a pension scheme.

From the commencement of the Claimant’s employment at Café Cwtch to July 2019 she was subjected to inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature from the Respondent, including sexual comments and physical contact. The Claimant made the Respondent aware that his conduct was unwelcome but he persisted. As a result of the Respondent’s conduct the Claimant was fearful to go to work and cried often when picked up from work. 

The Claimant attempted to book holidays in July 2019 but this was refused by the Respondent, resulting in her being off work with work-related stress.  The Respondent failed to pay her sick pay, despite the Claimant producing a valid fit note, and the Claimant raised concerns about her being paid for sickness absence (but to no avail).

In August 2019 the Claimant sought advice from ACAS and, following this, prepared a letter to give to the Respondent in order to pursue payment of statutory sick pay owed.  On 10 September 2019 Mr Morris, the Claimant’s partner, delivered the letter to the Respondent at the Cafe; Mr Morris videotaped this exchange (for, he asserted, his own protection). The Respondent complained about being filmed and ushered Mr Morris out of the door; unpleasant words were exchanged between them. 

Later on the after of 10 September 2019 the Respondent sent a letter to the Claimant which stated, “as your boyfriend is still coming to the café and behaving in a threatening manner, we have no option but to terminate your employment immediately”. The Claimant’s employment was formally terminated two days later (on 12 September 2019).

In July 2019  a written warning was issued to the Claimant by the Respondent in respect of her performance without any form of disciplinary procedure.  The Claimant felt there was no justification for the warning that had been issued to her.

The Claimant subsequently brought claims in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, sexual harassment, unauthorised deduction from wages, breach of contract, and failure to provide a written statement of terms.

The decision of the Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal found as follows in relation to the Claimant’s claims:

Unfair dismissal

The Employment Tribunal found in favour of Claimant, holding that the Respondent had not acted as a reasonable employer in dismissing the Claimant summarily, without any formal disciplinary procedure, and not giving her the opportunity to appeal her dismissal.

Read more here about the law relating to unfair dismissal in the workplace

Sexual harassment

The Employment Tribunal found that the Respondent had subjected the Claimant to comments and conduct of a sexual nature (under section 26 of the Equality Act 2010), and that this conduct was unwanted. The Employment Tribunal further held that the conduct had violated the Claimant’s dignity.

Read more about the law relating to sexual harassment in the workplace

Other claims

The ET also found in favour of the Claimant in her other claims, namely:

  • That she had not been paid for accrued but untaken holiday;
  • That unauthorised deductions had been made in respect of her wages (relating to the failure to pay her statutory sick pay);
  • That the termination of her employment had been a breach of contract; and
  • That the Respondent had failed to provide her with a written statement of particulars.

Remedy

The Employment Tribunal ordered the Respondent to pay the Claimant a total sum of £14,108.79, comprised of:

  • Basic award: £694.56
  • Compensatory award (loss of earnings, pension contributions, loss of statutory rights): £2,370.80
  • Injury to feelings: £8,800.00
  • Holiday pay: £463.04
  • Unauthorised deduction from wages: £159.75
  • Breach of contract: £694.56
  • Failure to provide written statement of particulars: £926.08

Our lawyers’ views on the case

Stephen Norton, a legal adviser at Redmans, commented as follows: “This case is an illustration on what could be seen as harsh and vindictive action against a female employee after she has raised legitimate concerns over unwelcome comments of a sexual nature, not to mention the other clear breaches of employment law.”

The decision of the Employment Tribunal in Miss S Joyce v Mr M England – ET1601693/2019 can be found here.

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

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