Part-time carer is backed by tribunal

A POWER lifter from Weston took her former bosses to an employment tribunal after she claims she was ‘pushed’ out of her care home job.

Jennifer Nicoll, who has represented Great Britain in her chosen sport, took on Abbeycare Homes where she had worked as a part-time carer for more than three years.

The mum-of-three worked at Gough House, which is one of three care homes run by Weston-super-Mare Free Church Housing Association.

Jennifer, aged 44, represented herself at the employment tribunal after going against the advice of her union solicitor and the Citizens Advice Bureau. She said: “I could have lost my house if I hadn’t won the case because of all the costs but I felt I needed to do this because of my principles.”

Jennifer was called to a disciplinary hearing after she didn’t turn up to her night shift in September 2008.

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She said she believed she had swapped the shift with a colleague so she could support her friend, who was taking part in the Midnight Beach Walk.

She claimed to receive an abusive voice mail from her manager the following day in which she was told she could be fired.

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Jennifer, of Brompton Road, was suspended for 10 days and although the disciplinary hearing panel agreed that the incident was a misunderstanding she was given a written warning. She attended several meetings to try to voice her grievances and she asked to be transferred to another home five times – but the tribunal said these were ignored.

In January, Jennifer was signed off work suffering with stress and she handed in her resignation in April.

An employment tribunal was called but was struck out in 2009 after Jennifer was accused of intimidating witnesses and sending abusive text messages and Facebook posts.

She said she didn’t intend to intimidate witnesses but spoke to some of her former colleagues because she felt their statements didn’t ring true. Jennifer added: “When I got a letter saying I had sent abusive messages I couldn’t believe it and I’m not even on Facebook.”

However a review hearing was called and the judge scheduled a full tribunal for November last year, in which Jennifer claimed she was constructively and unfairly dismissed.

The panel found in favour of Jennifer and said she had ‘good reasons for losing all trust and confidence’ in her employer.

They criticised Abbeycare for not providing Jennifer with a contract, ignoring her transfer requests and giving her a written warning.

She was awarded �1,572.50 but had to pay �250 to Abbeycare for preparation time costs.

Jennifer, who thanked her friend John Heenan for his advice and support, said: “After the disciplinary I felt unworthy at work and became depressed.

“I loved my job and never had a day off work before that incident but I feel I was pushed out.”

A spokesman for Abbeycare said: “Abbeycare is a charity providing quality care to its residents.

“We regard ourselves as a fair and flexible employer. We sincerely regret that Ms Nicoll’s case resulted in litigation. Despite the costs awarded against Ms Nicoll for her own conduct in proceedings and the relatively low value of the award, we accept the tribunal’s criticism of our procedures.

“We have learned valuable lessons from the judgment and have reviewed and improved our procedures.”

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