Sacked Sunderland hospital worker claims unfair dismissal

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A HOSPITAL worker claimed she was “set up to fail” by her bosses when she changed jobs because of her disability.

Terri Ainley, 47, claims City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust discriminated against her because of her disability when she was dismissed from her new post as bereavement co-ordinator after a trial period.

The former opthalmic photographer told an employment tribunal she had been forced to seek a new role because she was suffering from severe back pain, but hospital bosses had failed to make “reasonable adjustments” to her working terms and conditions which would have allowed her to manage her pain and carry out her duties.

“The respondent’s attitude was that if I could not work as a person without my condition would work, then I was not fit to work at all,” she said.

“I was put in an impossible position and, I believe, set up to fail.”

Mrs Ainley, from Durham, told the Newcastle hearing she had been promised support.

“I was given the impression that redeployment would be a positive and successful course of action,” she said.

But on her first day in her new role, she found herself using a colleague’s workstation: “It was his desk, it was set up for him, it was not set up for me in any way,” she said.

She had also used the desk of a colleague who was off sick: “When she came back, there was not anywhere for me to go, so I was told to go upstairs into a room that had a narrow table that had a computer.

“I was told to work in that room and I refused.”

A chair had been provided for her but she had been given no help or advice in deciding which one would be most helpful.

She told the hearing head of human resources Nick Hobday and line manager Mike Kelly had been reluctant to allow her to work when reclining, despite her having demonstrated she was able to do so.

Chaplain Peter Webb had told her he did not believe she was physically capable of fulfilling the role of bereavement co-ordinator.

But Richard Stubbs, representing the trust, said Mrs Ainley’s claims of being ‘set up to fail’ were “simply not correct”.

During cross examination, Mr Stubbs highlighted the fact the position of bereavement councillor was newly created by Mr Webb and risk manager Beverley Frankland.

He said: “You knew that this was a role (they) had fought for funding for. These people had a vested interest in the post being a success. In fact, Peter Webb had recognised that your redeployment simply was not working and was concerned for you.”

Mr Webb had been right to raise concerns: “What he is doing is entirely responsible,” said Mr Stubbs. “He is expressing concern about part of the role that might cause you difficulty. It would have been inappropriate of him not to say ‘this role does involve a physical element, this role does involve reactive rushing around”.’

The tribunal continues.