Former Royal Mail worker wins unfair dismissal claim over sick son

A woman who was sacked for taking time off to care for her asthmatic son has been awarded £8,700 at an employment tribunal.

The judge ruled that Alison Balch, who took time off seven times during her six-month trial period at Royal Mail, had been unfairly dismissed as she received no formal warning about her attendance before she was fired.

The tribunal heard that, as a new employee, Balch should have been given a performance review after three months.

Although her line manager had written up a performance review at this stage which raised concerns about her attendance, she did not see this until she met him for her six-month assessment.

Shortly after this meeting she was dismissed and given one week’s notice, despite explaining that her five-year-old son suffered from health problems.

Stephen Simpson, senior employment law editor at XpertHR, commented: “It is automatically unfair to dismiss someone for asserting the statutory right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergency situations involving a dependant.

“This is the type of case where an individual might bring a discrimination claim for an association with a disabled person (in this case, the employee’s own child), especially now that the Equality Act 2010 explicitly allows for this.”

The tribunal ruled that both Balch’s contract of employment and Royal Mail’s attendance procedures failed to mention time off for dependants and so failed to adhere to the Employment Rights Act.

XpertHR FAQs on time off for dependents

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