Hospital manager was unfairly dismissed after being ‘misled’ in restructure

14 Jan 2019 By Maggie Baska

Tribunal finds matching exercise was inadequate and employee’s duties and responsibilities were not investigated 

A hospital trust unfairly dismissed a senior manager when it matched her with unsuitable roles during a wide-ranging restructuring exercise, an employment tribunal has ruled.

East London employment tribunal said Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust had “misled” Ms C Connell regarding a matching exercise as it brought three different trusts together.

Connell began working for the NHS in 1981. She was employed by Mid Essex Hospitals Trust from December 2014, initially as a transformation manager, before becoming associate director of quality improvement in April 2015. Both posts were rated band 9 in the NHS pay band structure, meaning they paid a minimum of £84,507 per year

In February 2017, Connell’s employer launched a combined management unit with a number of other nearby trusts, called the Mid Essex, Southend and Basildon Institute (MSB Institute). The same month, MSB Institute proposed further restructuring, however Connell said she was unaware of the proposed restructure until 6 April 2017.

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The jobs Connell was offered under the restructure fell under band 8d, meaning they paid approximately £15,000 less than she was receiving under band 9.

Connell attended an initial individual consultation meeting on 20 April 2017 and asked for confirmation in writing that her role had been made redundant. Tom Abell, the hospital group’s deputy chief executive and chief transformation officer, said she was “only potentially at risk of redundancy”. 

Connell attended a further meeting in May, and her representative at the meeting asked whether Connell’s job description had been reviewed prior to the consultation commencing. Abell confirmed it had not been. By 2 August 2017, Connell had still not received her matching template, used in a restructure to assign an equivalent role.

On 9 August 2017, after a string of meetings in which she told her employer the roles she had been matched with were not suitable, Connell was signed off work due to work-related stress. Connell subsequently resigned on 1 September, citing “the fact that my role has been made redundant and in spite of that I have not been offered suitable alternative employment”.

The tribunal ruled that the restructuring team failed to carry out an adequate matching exercise and did not establish from the start what Connell’s duties and responsibilities were.

In her judgment, Judge Brown said the trust had acted “without reasonable or proper cause, in such a way as was calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence” with Connell.

“The [matching] panel were untrained and received no guidance. They failed to consider most of the factors they were required to consider under the policy,” she added. A remedy hearing will take place at a later date.

Kirsty Ayre, partner at Irwin Mitchell, told People Management employers were entitled to structure their business as they saw fit, but the “caveat is there needs to be a fair process followed”.

“Employees have the right to be consulted about the changes occurring in a restructure,” Ayre said. “It’s about setting out to employees what the proposed changes are, why they’re occurring, being open, doing due diligence at the start and following the business’s policies.”

Croner associate director Paul Holcroft said employers needed to act carefully when proposing a restructure. “As this case identified, failing to provide workers with sufficient information, or a lack of awareness about job roles, can impact an employee’s trust and confidence in the fairness and reasonableness of the procedure being followed,” Holcroft said. 

He added that confirmation of the removal of a job role should not be carried out until all alternatives have been examined and the consultation process has ended.

In a statement given to People Management, Abell said: “We have reflected on the findings of the tribunal and are working to tighten up processes so our staff are always treated fairly and appropriately.”

Connell could not be reached for comment. 

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