A UNISON trade union member has had her claim for unfair dismissal upheld after an Employment Tribunal found her employers denied her ‘natural justice’ when they failed to investigate a complaint which led to her dismissal.

The advocate from Nantgarw, Cardiff, was dismissed from her job at Advocacy Matters (Wales) in April 2010 following a complaint made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s learning disabilities team about her advocacy representation on behalf of a client.

Advocacy Matters (Wales) is part funded by the Vale of Glamorgan to provide independent advocacy for adults with learning difficulties. Advocacy often involves working with clients to support them in their dealings with the local authority.

Cardiff Employment Tribunal found that she had been unfairly dismissed on the grounds that her line manager had accepted at face value a complaint against her from the Council’s learning disabilities team and as a result failed to carry out an investigation into the complaint before dismissing her.

The UNISON member was awarded more than £20,000 for lost wages which also included an uplift of £4,000 to reflect the fact that her former employers had failed to follow ACAS codes of practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The woman who has 25 years experience supporting vulnerable people; as a social worker and then as an advocate was employed by Advocacy Matters (Wales) from 2007 to 2010 to develop and deliver a newly funded service providing advocacy for individuals with Aspergers syndrome.

The Tribunal concluded that her line manager had already decided her fate during a meeting she held with the council’s team without her present. It also found the manager had not carried out reasonable investigations to find out if the complaints should be upheld.

UNISON, instructed Thompsons Solicitors to represent her in the Employment Tribunal.

The member said: “The whole experience was awful. Having worked as an advocate for a total of six years I found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact Advocacy Matters (Wales) management team by their actions had sought to deny me a voice in this situation. They failed to uphold the principles of advocacy which are by their very nature, universal. The Tribunal panel stated in their summing up that I was denied natural justice. One can only wonder how is it possible for an advocacy agency to have a charge such as this levelled against them and still retain any credibility.

“The Tribunal result meant a lot to me; I cannot thank the Tribunal panel enough for their deliberation throughout the five day Tribunal hearing. However the case may never have got that far without union representation. I felt completely supported by my union representative throughout the whole process. I was also fortunate enough to have had an excellent solicitor throughout as well as a first class legal representative from Thompson’s solicitors who presented my case in court.”

Kate Thompson from Thompsons Solicitors said: “This member was treated appallingly by her employers who she had given her all to. She worked hard at building Advocacy Matters’ (Wales) advocacy service for individuals with Aspergers syndrome and in the end an organisation known for giving a voice to vulnerable people failed to offer a voice to a member of its own staff.”