Bedbound estate agent awarded more than £31k for unfair dismissal

Pauline Pilawa

A 29-year-old estate waiting for life-changing surgery has been awarded £31,707.34 by an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal following the “unilateral withdrawal” of her previously agreed ability to work from home.

Pauline Pilawa, rendered “bedbound” by endometriosis, had been working at a Midlands-based estate agency when, after previously being permitted to work from home, she was suddenly refused and told “if you are not well you should not be working”.

Spericle’s Properties on the Market in Lincoln employed Pilawa from July 2019 until November 2021, when the tribunal heard that she was forced to leave the job.

Pilawa, diagnosed with endometriosis in 2018, was signed off work sick in 2021, and was initially granted consent to work from home. But the estate agency later withdrew the arrangement and removed her from all company systems and the WhatsApp group.

The judge noted that “the respondent had permitted the adjustment previously but unilaterally withdrew it and made it clear in correspondence to her that it would not be reinstated”, despite the arrangement previously working well for both parties.

It was further deemed by the employment judge V Butler, sitting for Nottingham employment tribunal, that the respondent had “fabricated disciplinary documents relating to the claimant for the purposes of the hearing”, and the judge called them “a wholly unreliable witness”.

The judge found that Vaddaram, director of the company, had forged documents relating to supposed disciplinary hearings.

The judge stated: “We conclude on the balance of probabilities that the disciplinary allegations and documents were fabricated for the purposes of this hearing… There was simply no indication in the contemporaneous documents or witness evidence that the claimant was subject to disciplinary action.”

It was noted elsewhere that “we found Mr Vaddaram to be a wholly unreliable witness”.

The court concluded that the company “took the decision to dismiss the claimant because she had requested to work from home by way of an adjustment to accommodate her disability (and submitted a sick note confirming the same), which it did not want to accommodate. It refused to reinstate the previously agreed adjustment, despite it working to both parties’ satisfaction, and dismissed her instead.”

It added: “Even if the respondent had established a potentially fair reason for dismissal, it took no attempts to investigate/consult with the claimant and failed to follow any procedure whatsoever. Accordingly, the decision to dismiss would have fallen outside the band of reasonable responses.”

Pilawa’s claims of unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments all succeeded. Of the £31,707.34 in total awarded, £15,000 was for injury to feelings. Pilawa told the court she felt like she had been “discarded like a piece of rubbish”.

Read the full decision in Ms P Pilawa v Spericle Ltd T/a Properties on The Market: 2600655/2022 – Reserved Judgment.

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