West Northamptonshire Council to pay £9,000 in unfair dismissal case

West Northamptonshire CouncilWest Northamptonshire Council has been ordered to pay a former manager of Everdon Outdoor Learning Centre nearly £9,000, after Northamptonshire County Council was found to have unfairly and wrongfully dismissed them.

Northamptonshire County Council was dissolved in 2021, resulting in West Northamptonshire Council, which now owns the centre, taking on its responsibilities.

Alison Crowther had been working at the Daventry-based centre since January 2013. She was diagnosed with spontaneous intracranial hypotension, causing headaches, balance problems, dizziness and physical weakness, causing her to take sick leave.

Her doctor said she was approximately 80% recovered in March 2019, and Crowther had therefore planned a phased return to work the next month as her sick pay had expired in October 2018. Crowther received a response from her manager about her return a month later than expected, and filed a grievance in June, stating that the council was breaching her contract because she could not earn a salary. She then resigned, citing damaged mental health and confidence as a result of the delay as the reason.

During the employment tribunal, her manager denied any deliberate intention to delay Crowther’s return to work, and said that the centre wanted to ensure it was safe for all involved.

According to employment judge Jeremy Lewis, Crowther’s manager allowed the case to drift, and that the lack of urgency shown amounted to a serious failure in management.

Judge Lewis said: “There was a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence that the claimant’s claim of wrongful dismissal also succeeds. It is common ground that the entitlement was to 12 weeks’ notice at £638.71 per week. The respondent concedes that if the wrongful dismissal claim succeeds, 12 weeks’ notice pay would be due in the instance that there is no issue raised as a reduction for failure to mitigate during the notice period in relation to that claim. Accordingly, the claimant is entitled to be paid the sum of £7,664.52.”

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The council was also ordered to pay £1,245.92 due to a failure to make an annual leave payment following the termination of Crowther’s employment.

West Northamptonshire Council was contacted for comment prior to publication.