A food scientist has been awarded nearly £19,000 after his boss fired him for not working hard enough while caring for his wife who was seriously ill with cancer.

Andrew Ward requested previously an unpaid sabbatical. However, he was allowed to work from his home as his spouse received treatment for stage 3 breast cancer.

Nigel Day, manager, became more frustrated with Ward’s inability to perform his duties. He accused Ward of accepting his salary under false pretences.

A’reprehensible letter’ was sent by the company to Mr Ward, which contained ‘bombastic and petty language. The tribunal found that Ward had committed gross misconduct and dismissed him.

Following an unfair dismissal by the Tribunal, compensation has been awarded to the chemist.

Food scientist Andrew Ward has won almost £19,000 after his boss fired him and claimed he was ‘lying’ about taking time off to care for his wife who had cancer

Food scientist Andrew Ward has won almost £19,000 after his boss fired him and claimed he was ‘lying’ about taking time off to care for his wife who had cancer

Panel members concluded that Company Secretary Day was aggressive and would not have brought this case if he had used common sense and humanity.

At the hearing, it was revealed that Ward worked for Arthur Branwell, an Essex-based company producing food additives.

His wife was in poor health at the time and he worked reduced hours since 2014 to care for her.

She was diagnosed in February 2019 with breast cancer grade 3. He took compassionate leave early April. 

Mr Ward applied for an unpaid sabbatical in June to help his wife with her treatment. He was refused this request, and the tribunal told him that he could temporarily work remotely 50% of the time to care for his wife.

After hearing it, the panel decided that it was ‘apparent” that he wasn’t doing much work.

An email was sent to Mr Ward in July 2019 advising him to go back to work because the “present arrangement is not working” and that if he didn’t, it would result in disciplinary action as well as his dismissal.

However, Ward didn’t go to his office or to a meeting in which to discuss the matter. He was also not present at the meeting rescheduled and was fired on August 8.

A letter was sent by the company to Mr Ward, claiming that he was lying. 

He was also accused of going to his wife’s hospital visits during work hours, without telling them and “was taking money form his employer while caring and working for his wife”.

East London’s tribunal heard Mr Ward was accused of taking the money and doing little or no work while caring full-time for his wife. This because he asked for time off unpaid. 

Paul Housego, an Employment Judge, argued that Arthur Branwell was a generous man and there weren’t any real reasons why Ward should not be paid for his sabbatical.

It concluded that a hostile environment was created, and Ward was unfairly dismissed.

According to the tribunal, there was no fault with Mr Ward taking care of his wife and no fault when his employer said that they couldn’t continue his employment.

“That’s the bottom and top of this reality. If Mr Day (and his employment advisors), had had the common sense to understand that this was the truth, the case wouldn’t have been filed. 

“Instead of that, Mr Day wrote letters in which he accused Mr Ward, not only of not performing his job but also for refusing to go to meetings and for taking company money, while he was not actually working for the company and looking after his wife.

“(The employment advisers)” correspondence with Mr Ward was unacceptable. Their use of a bombastic and personal language, along with the way they approached this case and Mr Day is unacceptable. 

The tribunal ruled that if the correct procedures were followed, fair dismissal would be ‘100% certain’.

The court also denied a claim of discrimination against disabled persons.

“It’s also regrettable Mr Ward failed to tell his employer that he couldn’t perform the minimal amount of work that his employer required him to because of the care responsibilities of caring for his spouse.” 

They had been very helpful for him over many years. He didn’t expect them to continue in such a way. They were not doing enough work, and he was constantly cancelling meetings. 

It was obvious that he wouldn’t be able leave his wife for meetings. 

“He knew and they didn’t know exactly what was happening.”

Mr Ward will receive £18,577 in damages. The company and the employment advisors have also been ordered to pay him £28,000 in legal costs.