M&S worker wins £15,000 in compensation after being unfairly dismissed
Sacked M&S worker wins £15,000 in compensation after tribunal ruled she was unfairly dismissed for taking time off sick over ‘traumatic’ confrontation with shopper who refused to wear Covid mask
- Deborah Daisy was confronted by an ‘aggressive’ man who refused to wear mask
- Tribunal panel heard Mrs Daisy found the incident ‘traumatic’ and went on leave
- She previously had an armed robbery and chased a shoplifter, tribunal heard
- This contributed to her being off for five months with anxiety and depression
- She was sacked, panel ruled she was unfairly dismissed and awarded £15,000
An M&S worker who was sacked for taking time off sick over ‘traumatic’ confrontation with a shopper who refused to wear a mask has won £15,000 in compensation.
Deborah Daisy was verbally abused by the ‘aggressive’ man while working for the retail giant at Oatlands Harrogate Simply Food store in November 2020, an employment tribunal heard.
The hearing was told it affected her mental health and brought back her previous experiences of armed robbery and her chasing a shoplifter out of the shop to a bus stop.
Mrs Daisy had not received training in dealing with crime, the panel was told, and she went off sick for five months with anxiety and depression caused by safety at work fears.
She complained about M&S’ ‘lack of action’ said she felt ‘vulnerable’ being in the store and as sacked after the retail giant said no adjustments would be made.
The judge expressed ‘surprise’ at M&S’ failure to explore resolving her problems given it is a ‘well-resourced retailer’ and she won her unfair dismissal claim.
The panel concluded she should have been told the outcome of investigations into her personal safety issues and the company hid behind GDPR constraints. She has now been awarded a total of £15,004.41 at a further hearing.
Deborah Daisy was verbally abused by the ‘aggressive’ man while working for the retail giant at Oatlands Harrogate Simply Food store (pictured) in November 2020, an employment tribunal heard
‘Loyal and hardworking’ Mrs Daisy joined the firm in April 2015 and worked part time as a customer assistant at the Teesside Park branch, Stockton-on-Tees.
The tribunal, held in Leeds, was told she went off work due to ‘high levels’ of anxiety and ‘severe’ depression in January 2021 after she confronted a shopper who refused to wear a mask.
During an ill-health meeting the following month, the panel heard Mrs Daisy’s anxiety and depression were caused by the pandemic in general but referred to that specific incident. Adjustments were discussed to facilitate her coming back.
The tribunal was told two occupational health reports were made and she was deemed unfit to work, with her return unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Deborah Daisy successfully sued M&S for sacking her when she went off sick for five months after confronting a maskless shopper at the store where she worked in Oatlands Harrogate
The panel heard: ‘Her history would suggest that she could be revisiting distressing thoughts and feelings from the armed robbery or other incidents where she felt under threat.
‘This is likely to be impacting on why she doesn’t currently feel safe in work despite strict Covid preventions measures in place.
‘It is likely the anxiety around Covid safety is exacerbated by some unresolved issues from the past and could include the armed robbery and issues she alluded to in the past.’
The panel heard investigations were carried out by M&S into Mrs Daisy’s concerns, however she was not told of the result due to ‘vague’ GDPR reasons.
In April, Mrs Daisy was warned her continued absence could result in her being sacked if she was incapable to return to work, the tribunal was told.
Matters had not improved by the following month, as the panel heard thinking about work sent her anxiety ‘through the roof’ and she felt ‘vulnerable in store’.
The tribunal was also told that in a meeting about her absence, Mrs Daisy said she felt M&S had not ‘acted and dealt with abusive customers appropriately’.
Mrs Daisy said the confrontation with a maskless shopper was ‘traumatic’. Pictured: Shoppers wearing face masks. There is no suggestion that any of those pictured confronted Mrs Daisy
‘Most of the fourth consultation was taken up by [Mrs Daisy] complaining about the lack of action over the incidents she had referred to previously as happening to her at the store and making her feel vulnerable,’ the tribunal said.
‘It is clear from the content of the discussion at the fourth consultation that these are the matters that [she] is stating are preventing her from returning to work.’
In June that year she was fired, which she unsuccessfully appealed.
Mrs Daisy then took M&S to the employment tribunal which found she should have been told the result of the investigations and that M&S had only shared the information with her after she was sacked.
Employment Judge Timothy Knowles concluded: ‘It was in my conclusion outside of the band of reasonable responses which might have been adopted by an employer acting reasonably to dismiss without sharing the findings about the issues she had raised in relation to her personal safety and engaging with [Mrs Daisy] about how her personal safety fears may be addressed in future.
‘I am surprised that those matters were not explored with [her] given that [Marks and Spencer Plc] is a well-resourced retailer in the UK and given that the plight of shopworkers and the abuse they suffer at work is generally well known.’
The tribunal ruled that she would receive less compensation than otherwise, as it was likely she would have eventually been dismissed in any event.
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