Rachael Edgeler, 50, started working as a lecturer in health and social care at the City College Plymouth in August 2020, before resigning from her role in 2022 over claims that she was being harassed by her line manager.  

At an employment tribunal hearing which took place earlier this year, a panel heard that Mrs Edgeler had experienced a number personal family and health issues during her time at the college, including the death of her ex-husband and the father of her two young children, in addition to Long Covid and depression.  

An Occupational Health report obtained stated that she should be supported with these challenges, and whilst they did result in some absences, her work had been praised and held up as an example of good practice.  

Despite this, the employment tribunal also heard that she had been subjected to continued bullying by her manager who suggested that her covid illness was not real, and that she should look for alternative employment with a ‘work/life balance’. 

She also told Mrs Edgeler that she needed to be in the office for 8:30am, which was not stated in her contract, and that the adjustments that had been made to her working environment and schedule to help her with her Long Covid symptoms were to be abolished.  

Whilst she did raise a grievance about the way she was being treated, her complaints were not managed appropriately, and the college later launched disciplinary action against her for unrelated matters.  

Following her ordeal, with the support of her union, the University and College Union, Mrs Edgeler instructed expert employment lawyers at Thompsons Solicitors to investigate the way she had been treated. 

Legal action was launched against the college, with her lawyer, David Jones, arguing that she had been subjected to unfair constructive dismissal and victimisation.  

Following the hearing an employment tribunal judge ruled in Mrs Edgeler favour, saying that as a single parent trying to cope in difficult circumstances, she had been left with ‘no option other than to resign her employment’. 

She was awarded £25,000 compensation which reflects both the impact that the ordeal has had on both her and her family, as well as her loss of earnings. 

Commenting on the outcome University and College Union regional official, Nick Varney, said: "Staff at City College Plymouth have now lost all trust and confidence in their management. As this case shows, the college is willing to defend managers and throw its staff under the bus, no matter the evidence. Our members will rightly read this judgment and wonder how they can expect the college to follow the law and its own policies, if it is content to resist the legal process called upon it by a tribunal. 

"Issues have been exacerbated by management's decision to outsource HR to a private company. The college has already spent over £280k on external HR consultants yet they do not even turn up in-person on campus. Management must stop relying upon them to deal with grievances, disciplinaries and even trade union negotiations. The college needs to make serious changes if it wants to avoid a trade dispute. This must start with bringing HR back in house." 

David Jones from Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Mrs Edgeler in her case against her employer, said: “Mrs Edgeler was subjected to continued abuse and harassment from her line manager who should have been focused on providing help and support during what was an extremely difficult and challenging time.  

“The behaviour of her colleague, and the conduct of the college, left her with no choice but to leave her job and look for alternative employment, causing her considerable emotional distress and financial worry. 

“We are pleased that the employment tribunal found in favour of our client and delighted to have been able to secure a compensation package on her behalf. We hope that she is now able to focus on putting this ordeal behind her and moving forward with her life.”