• Employment tribunal orders East of England Ambulance Service Trust to pay employee £96,000
  • Judge describes conduct by former head of HR as “appalling”
  • Covert recording showed another senior manager joking about “pummel[ing]” staff member in a meeting

An ambulance trust has been ordered to pay £96,000 to a wrongfully dismissed employee after a tribunal branded its response to his concerns as “appalling”.

Earlier this year, East of England Ambulance Service Trust lost an employment tribunal brought by Gordon Flemming. The size of the payout was revealed in papers published this week. 

Mr Flemming, a motor vehicle technician who was based in Norwich, reported feeling suicidal after going through a grievance, sickness absence and disciplinary process with the organisation.

When he wrote to the trust’s then human resources director Ruth McAll’s assistant, and to assistant director of operations support Paul Henry, to express these concerns, he received a response from Ms McAll informing him the letter was ”not acceptable” and the trust would contact its solicitors if he continued to write such letters. 

The judgment read: “The tribunal comment that in our combined 60 years’ judicial experience we have not before seen such an appalling response… We use the word ‘appalling’ advisedly. An employee having indicated that he was seriously contemplating suicide was told not to write accordingly otherwise such letters would be referred to the trust’s solicitors.”

The judgment also included evidence from a covert recording of the senior dismissing manager joking in a private meeting that he wanted to “pummel it [his point of view]” into Mr Flemming “with [his] fists”.

The judgment said the language used indicated there was not “any realistic prospect of a fair procedure” for the disciplinary process which led to the motor vehicle technician’s dismissal for gross misconduct in November 2015.

The tribunal said it recognised the claimant “was at times in his employment very difficult to manage, had difficulty in following management instructions and on occasion simply would not co-operate in what, at times, had been genuine efforts to resolve his employment difficulties”.

But the report also detailed that, for the first three years of his employment from April 2009, he was employed “without incident or difficulty”.

In response to the award ruling this week, interim director of people and culture at the trust Yasmin Rafiq said: “East of England Ambulance Service Trust would like to apologise for its former conduct towards Mr Flemming.

“The findings outlined in the tribunal judgment are now being remedied and our commitment is to provide a respectful working environment, enabling employees to be committed to providing quality of care to our patients.

“We are pleased that we were subsequently able to work with Mr Flemming to avoid a further lengthy and stressful hearing for him.”