Home Office ordered to re-employ interpreters who won unfair dismissal case

The Home Office has been ordered to re-hire the two interpreters who won unfair dismissal cases against it last month.

In a shock judgment, the government department escaped feared payouts in excess of £1.5m but was ordered to find new management posts for both women within 28 days.

An employment tribunal ruled in February that Marti Khan, 48, and Odette King, 57, suffered “systematic race and sex discrimination” and were unfairly dismissed.

Khan was seeking £970,000 compensation, and King £550,000, but each will receive just £75,000 – along with a job.

HR professionals at the Home Office were slated during the original hearing. Khan and King were found to have suffered discrimination after the department decided to outsource interpreting work to freelancers.

They were then unfairly dismissed after writing to Charles Clarke – then home secretary – to complain they were paid to do nothing for years.

Legal experts said the judgment was a warning to all HR professionals and employers.

Barry Mordsley, head of employment at law firm Salans, said: “Although the compensation awarded is significantly lower than the amounts claimed, the judge’s message is clear enough: employers who procrastinate when HR issues arise and ignore their employment procedures and employment rights do so at their own peril.”

Annette Partridge, associate at Hogan & Hartson, added: “Far too often, employers only focus on the likely amount of compensation that could be awarded to employees when facing employment tribunal claims. This case goes to show that re-engagement can and will be used by the tribunal in appropriate cases. Employers must always remember this and plan accordingly.”

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