A Rochdale worker, who was sacked for making use of trade union services to assist him with a workplace issue, has secured more than £8,700 in compensation following legal action through his union.

George Hadfield, a 30-year-old Unite member from Rochdale, Lancashire, was dismissed in May 2020 by his employer, Falconex - an electronics supplier for the automotive industry - where he worked as a project electrical engineer.

The action was taken by the firm’s managing director after Mr Hadfield sought Unite assistance following concerns he had about workplace practices during the pandemic.

Despite subsequently returning to work after fearing that he’d lose his job, Mr Hadfield was told just days later that he was being made redundant.

In an email to all staff, the company’s managing director said: “Recently, George has shown a very poor judgment in challenging simple decisions made by Falconex, regarding furloughing, by involving Unite the Union, of which he is a new member. This was clearly a break of trust between George and Falconex and it could only lead to a quick - during these tough times - parting of ways”.

Mr Hadfield instructed national law firm Thompsons Solicitors to bring a claim for unfair dismissal against Falconex. He subsequently secured £8,389.48 at an employment tribunal in July 2022, after it was judged he had been unfairly dismissed for making use of trade union services.

In December 2022, after months of the company refusing to make the payment and a subsequent appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Manchester County Court ordered the firm to pay Mr Hadfield’s legal costs and Mr Hadfield finally received payment from the company with interest, totalling £8,719.66.

In May 2023, the Employment Appeal Tribunal, decided the company had no reasonable grounds for bringing an appeal and there should be no appeal hearing.

Mr Hadfield said: “It was an incredibly scary time. I thought I was going to lose my house, such was the fear of losing my job. And when I was actually sacked, the uncertainty about whether I could secure another job during the pandemic caused so much stress and strain.

“What’s worse, is that Mr Roux knew the predicament I was in and used it as leverage to threaten me to go back to work during furlough.

“Ultimately, I’m glad I stood up to someone who I consider to be a bully. Unite and Thompsons gave me the confidence to take on my employer, something I would probably not have done on my own.

“My solicitor, Jamie, was excellent. He was very friendly and kept me up to date with developments. He was also very patient with me in terms of explaining the legal process, something that can be very daunting if you’ve never had any experience of making a claim.”

Jamie Humphries, a principal employment lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors’ Manchester office, who represented Mr Hadfield, said: "This was a horrible experience for Mr Hadfield to endure. Being asked to go back to work during furlough, and then to be sacked for making use of his trade union, was repugnant behaviour by his employer.

“This case has wider implications for workers accessing trade union services, as it demonstrates the protection the law provides to those who are dismissed for making use of trade union services.

"I'm really pleased that we could secure a satisfactory outcome for Mr Hadfield, so that he and his family can move forward and embrace the next chapter of their lives.”

Stephen Pinder, acting legal director of Unite the Union, added: “Unite is committed to fighting for members' employment rights and holding anti-trade union employers accountable. No employee should be sacked or subjected to a detriment for seeking the assistance of their trade union.”

This case was supported by Unite through the Unite Legal Service, and our members benefit from access to expert legal advice and representation to address injustice and to enforce their legal rights.