Paul Hagger, 49, from Exeter was sacked from his job as a canteen assistant for Milk Link Processing in Devon after being told he was no longer capable of working in the role.

Mr Hagger had been moved into the job 18 months earlier after suffering a fall at work where he suffered a nasty break to his ankle.

The accident meant he had to take several months off work from his job as a production operative on the factory floor. When he returned to work it became clear his injuries meant he could no longer cope with the 12 hour shifts.

The firm’s occupational health department said he was no longer fit to work in the role and transferred him to the job in the canteen. He was told it was a permanent position.

In August 2011, 18 months later, he was told that he would be returning to a position on the factory floor. Just a few weeks later he received a letter informing him he was being dismissed on ill health grounds with just nine weeks notice.

Mr Hagger contacted his trade union, Unite the Union, for advice. Unite helped him appeal the dismissal arguing that he had worked in the canteen role on a permanent basis and that the dismissal on grounds of ill health was incorrect. The decision to sack Mr Hagger was upheld.

Unite supported Mr Hagger in pursuing an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. The union’s lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors argued that Mr Hagger was on a permanent contract in a role he was clearly capable of doing. It said that the dismissal should have been a redundancy situation and therefore the correct selection procedures should have been undertaken.

Taunton Employment Tribunal found in Mr Hagger’s favour and awarded him £15,000 in compensation.

Mr Hagger said: “It is a big relief that the Tribunal has awarded this money. Unite and Thompsons have been a great support and helped me to find a way through the legalities of my case. I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise.”

Heath Pettifer from Unite added: “Milk Link Processing was using Mr Hagger’s injury as an excuse to sack him and attempted to pull the wool over his eyes. When he contacted us we could see the firm should have been treating this as a redundancy situation and as a result all members of staff working in the canteen should have been put through the correct redundancy selection process.”

Tom Woodward from Thompsons Solicitors added: “The law allows employers to dismiss where a fair reason can be shown and a proper procedure is followed. But they can’t do so if they aren’t clear on the reason for the dismissal or if they don’t follow an appropriate procedure.

“Here the Employment Tribunal agreed with our argument that if Mr Haggar was fit to work in his role as canteen assistant it was improper to dismiss him as being incapable of doing the factory role. There was a redundancy situation, but Mr Haggar wasn’t dismissed on grounds of redundancy.

“Following a proper procedure would have saved Milk Link the costs of fighting this at Tribunal and the additional expense of paying compensation to Mr Haggar.”