Tribunal rules unfairly dismissed nurse must be re-engaged

A nurse who was sacked for frequent short-term sickness absence during a period when she was suffering domestic abuse is to be re-engaged following the intervention of her trade union, UNISON and law firm Thompsons. An employment tribunal has ruled that Cardiff and Vale University Health Board acted unfairly in dismissing Karen Allen-Powlett; that she must be allowed to return to work and must be paid compensation for her loss of earnings.

UNISON has criticised the health board for its draconian application of the sickness absence policy and said it would be closely monitoring its use in future.

Karen was a general nurse working in Cardiff and Vale’s Cardiac Intensive Care Ward. She took fifteen short-term absences from work in her first two years’ employment with the Trust, a number of which were for migraines caused by the mental stress of her husband’s violence. Police eventually forcibly removed him from the home.

The end of the relationship heralded a return to better health for Karen but after taking just one day’s sickness absence during the next seven months for flu, she was dismissed. Despite evidence to the contrary, managers argued her attendance had not shown “significant improvement”. Six months earlier, Karen had advised her supervisor the underlying reason for previous ill-health was her violent husband.

Karen said,
“I’ve always given my all in my job. There’s never been an issue over my performance and I was regarded as a good nurse. I lost my marriage and then to lose my job was a great shock. I was helpless and grieving and it felt like the end of my life. My sacking forced me into financial hardship. I can’t wait to get back to work. The fact I have a chance of a new start is down to UNISON’s support and its legal team. I can’t find the words to thank them enough. They helped me get the justice I deserve.”

Andrew Woodman, UNISON organiser said,
“This is a significant victory for Karen and the right of all employees to be treated fairly. We hope this judgement marks a return to greater respect at work and allows everyone to focus on providing the best care possible to the community.”