Astons Solicitors successfully acted for Mrs Harper in her employment tribunal case against her employers (Moulton College) for constructive unfair dismissal and age discrimination. The Bedford Employment Tribunal held in Mrs Harpers favour on both complaints and awarded her the total sum of £193,849.11.
On 12th May 1986, Mrs Harper began work for Northampton Borough Council as a Project Co-ordinator. In April 1989, her role changed to Senior Training Officer for youth training. On 1st January 1991, the youth training contract was taken over by Daventry District Council and in consequence, her employment TUPE transferred to that authority. By August 2006, the Claimant was working as the Council’s Training and Development Officer. In her role she was responsible for overseeing all of the authority’s apprenticeship programmes. She had the support of 5 staff reporting to her and financial budgets of about £223,000 for expenditure and £90,000 for sub contracting.
On 1st August 2006, Moulton College took over the apprenticeship programmes and in consequence, Mrs Harper TUPE transferred to work for Moulton College. Her terms and conditions remained the same but her job title was changed to Apprenticeship Scheme Assistant Manager. At the time of this transfer, the College had one other Apprenticeship Schemes Assistant Manager, namely Amanda Lane.
In September 2008, Mrs Harper was instructed (without warning or consultation) by the College to move to the position of Services to Business Programmes Co-ordinator even though this was a different and more junior role to that which Mrs Harper had been employed in. It was not, as the College had argued, a career development opportunity but a backwards step. Although, this was stated as being only a temporary role, Mrs Harper was given no indication of when she might return to her old job. Further, the nature of the tasks were different and the hours considerably longer for the same pay. The Tribunal found Mrs Harper would have been working an extra 6 hours per week. Once the College had informed Mrs Harper of its decision it required her to move almost immediately. Mrs Harper was provided with no alternatives and in consequence resigned. The Tribunal held that Moulton College were in fundamental breach of the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence in Mrs Harper’s contract of employment and hence her claim of constructive unfair dismissal succeeded.
As regards Mrs Harper’s claim of age discrimination, it was her case that she was treated less favourably than Ms Lane, who was in a comparable situation to her. Specifically, Mrs Harper was moved into the more junior role whereas Ms Lane was not considered. Mrs Harper was aged 58 at the relevant time and Mrs Lane was aged 34. The College had argued that Ms Lane was not suitable for this role and that Mrs Harper was picked because she had a smaller caseload. However, the Tribunal did not accept this and found that in fact Mrs Harper’s caseload was greater than Ms Lane’s. The Tribunal found that Mrs Harper was approaching the final years of her career and working life (in conventional terms) whereas Ms Lane had considerably more years ahead of her and that is why the job change was imposed on Mrs Harper and not Ms Lane.
The Tribunal awarded Mrs Harper a total award of £193,849.11 comprising as follows:-
Compensatory and basic awards £178,048
Award of Injury to Feelings £15,000
Interest on Injury to Feelings £161.92
Interest on Financial Loss £639.19
Mrs Harper was very pleased with the outcome on liability and remedy as well as the service she received from Astons Solicitors. Mrs Harper said of Astons:-
“The employment law advice and service I received from Astons Solicitors was always prompt and professional. Although I initially worked with Astons to prepare my case because I was funded by my insurers I was forced to use their panel solicitors to issue proceedings. Once this had taken place it was an easy and quick process to return to Astons and still remain covered by my insurer. I am certain that the personal contact, support and interest I received from Astons Solicitors were fundamental to the eventual success of my case. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone in need of an Employment Law Solicitor.”