• Essex hospital group unfairly dismissed director as part of restructure
  • Tribunal rules director at Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust was “misled” about suitable alternatives
  • Remedy hearing will take place at a later date

A hospital group unfairly dismissed a senior manager as it restructured staff across three trusts, a tribunal has ruled.

Over 2016 and 2017, the management teams of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust, Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust and Southend University Hospital FT were being restructured, and the Mid Essex, Southend and Basildon Institute established.

An employment tribunal judgement, published last week, ruled that Carmel Connell, a band 9 manager, had been constructively dismissed in the botched exercise.

The tribunal said the restructuring team 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 between the claimant and respondent, by its actions during the consultation and restructure process”.

The employment judge said the trust had failed to establish what Ms Connell’s duties and responsibilities were at the start of the exercise. At one point she was misidentified as director of nursing at the trust.

The judge said the restructuring team then failed to carry out an adequate matching exercise.

The judgement read: “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. The factors which they did consider, including job content, were considered unreasonably.”

Under cross examination, the hospital group’s deputy chief executive and chief transformation officer Tom Abell agreed that information he had provided to Ms Connell about the job matching process at a meeting in June 2017 was wrong, the judgement said.

Ms Connell was initially employed as transformation manager at Mid Essex in December 2014 and became associate director of quality improvement four months later. A large part of her job was ensuring the trust complied with conditions placed on it following a Care Quality Commission inspection in 2014.

The jobs she was offered in the restructure were band 8d. There is a salary difference of approximately £15,000 between band 8d jobs and those within band 9.

The judgement said: “Put simply, the alternative roles proposed were so lacking in detail that there was little evidence that they could constitute suitable alternative employment for the claimant.

“The claimant did not unreasonably refuse these roles, which were offered to her in extremely vague terms.”

In a statement given to HSJ, Mr 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.”

A remedy hearing will take place at a later date.