Firefighter wins landmark case for unfair dismissal26 October 2015
A firefighter who was unfairly dismissed has won a landmark case after an Employment Tribunal ruled her dismissal ‘irrational’
A former firefighter of 21 years has successfully won her case for unfair dismissal with the support of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and Thompsons Solicitors.
Kerry Baigent, who had also served as an FBU official in Cambridgeshire, resigned following a dispute with the Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service (CFRS) after she was compulsorily transferred to another station.
The new station that Kerry was moved to operated a different shift pattern, which meant that she could only spend 24 hours at home with her family each week. In addition, her former station was operationally effected as her move left it with an inadequate number of drivers, and the move also disrupted Kerry’s trade union commitments.
After proceeding with a grievance process, the transfer was upheld and Kerry was told that personal circumstances were not considered when transferring an employee, despite the fact that in the past other firefighters had been consulted on those grounds.
Kerry worked for four weeks at the new station before leaving and claiming constructive dismissal, which allows an employee to resign if they believe their employer has been in breach of contract and to treat themselves as if dismissed.
An Employment Tribunal ruled that she was dismissed due to an “irrational and perverse exercise” that lacked transparency. The CFRS was unable to name the person who made the decision or the reasons behind Kerry’s transfer.
During the Tribunal, Kerry was supported by 20 Cambridgeshire firefighters who attended the tribunal each day. She said: “The CFRS didn’t think I had any chance of winning the case but, supported by the FBU throughout this entire ordeal, I won.
“All I wanted was an apology from my employer. I was forced to move to another station without a second thought to the affect it would have on me personally, and my family. I hope my experience and my victory for common sense will encourage other individuals to come forward if they feel that they have been exploited.”
Cameron Matthews, Brigade Secretary at the FBU, said: “The victory at the hearing is a fantastic result for our member but at what a price. The fire service has lost an able and dedicated member of staff who protected her community for more than 20 years.
“As a trade union representative, Kerry worked hard to ensure her colleagues were treated fairly, something that was not extended to her by senior management. As a result, an excellent firefighter has been taken off the frontline.”
“Thanks to Kerry’s membership of the FBU, she had access to expert legal representation and has been compensated for what she has been through and the financial consequences of that.”
James Lenihan, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This is a landmark case for the FBU. Kerry took a real risk in resigning and claiming constructive dismissal, they aren’t easy cases to win, but despite Kerry’s employer being confident, our argument won the day.
“Thompsons Solicitors and the FBU fought hard to ensure that the CFRS were held accountable for unfairly dismissing a respected firefighter with no reasonable grounds. Kerry should have never been forced to move from her station without consideration of the impact it would cause to her personally.”
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