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NHS ‘failed to protect union leader’ against abuse from colleagues

Posted: 30th March 2016   In: Business Employment, Individual Employment

The Court of Appeal has ruled that an NHS Trust failed to protect a mental health nurse from abuse from his colleagues because it wanted to deter him from taking part in his trade union activities.

The nurse was a leading member of the Workers of England Union (WEU). He was also a member of the much larger union, Unison. The WEU was seen as being a right wing organisation and was not welcomed by the trust or by Unison.

The nurse had stood as an English Democrat candidate in a General Election. This led a colleague to circulate an email suggesting that the WEU was linked with fascism and the British National Party.

The Employment Tribunal found that the trust failed to deal with the matter in accordance with their disciplinary procedures and dignity at work policies.

Another colleague who had called the nurse a bigot was informally advised that the remark was inappropriate. The tribunal found that the trust should have taken more robust steps to protect the nurse.

The trust also failed to deal effectively with a colleague who had addressed the nurse as Adolf.

A Unison official's email to a trust member of staff expressing concerns about the "creeping crypto fascism" of WEU was in the tribunal's view the consequence of the trust management's "weak and lamentably ineffective conduct" in failing to protect the nurse.

The tribunal held that the trust had subjected the nurse to detriment by deliberately failing to act because it wanted to prevent or deter him from taking part in the WEU activities.

That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal. It said that tribunal had been entitled to find that on four occasions the trust subjected the nurse to detriment by its deliberate failure to act.

Please contact John Carter if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.