NHS worker receives tribunal payout of almost £1m

A former NHS worker has been awarded £933,115 in compensation after an employment tribunal found that he had been subject to racial discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Elliot Browne was a divisional director at Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust until he was dismissed in 2008. Browne told an employment tribunal that he had been the victim of “discriminatory treatment” in the final year of his employment at the trust and had been unfairly dismissed.

The tribunal found that Browne had suffered “systematic discrimination” and “an intimidating environment” in his role, and that after Browne had raised a grievance the trust had failed to take it seriously or investigate it sufficiently.

Browne claimed that the treatment severely affected him and left him close to a “mental breakdown.”

Despite the trust’s claim that it believed strongly that discrimination was not a factor in the case, the tribunal awarded Browne £933,115 for unfair dismissal, aggravated damages and loss of earnings and pension.

Unite, which represented Browne in the tribunal, called for the trust to “tackle its culture of institutionalised racism”. In a statement released following the tribunal, the union’s head of health, Rachael Maskell, said: “Discrimination and harassment in the health service is all too common from our experience as a trade union and needs to be rooted out.

“NHS employers need to establish comprehensive and effective training programmes and human resources functions so that there will be no repetition of this case. Dignity at work needs to be a reality.”

Unite regional officer, Keith Hutson said: “This is a well deserved outcome for Elliot Browne. It reflects the pain, suffering and grief that he was put through by his employer, Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

“Hopefully, this will act as a catalyst for his former employer to face up to their obligations in tackling the culture of institutionalised racism that they seem happy to endorse and that is underpinned by a cavalier attitude in their management style.

“The expenditure of almost £1 million of taxpayers’ money could have been avoided if this employer had just followed its own policies and procedures from the outset, instead of believing that NHS funds are there to defend the indefensible, rather than deliver patient care.”

Stephen Simpson, senior employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “Employers should still bear in mind that this level of award is unusual, with most of the award being made up of Mr Browne’s drop in earnings [including projected future earnings] and loss of pension rights. It was acknowledged that Mr Browne, who had serious depression resulting in ‘suicidal thoughts’, had suffered a drop in his income after losing a job that he would have stayed in until his retirement. Although he would be able to do some private consultancy work, he would not again attain the same level of income that he had in the NHS.

“The award, which was “grossed up” – to ensure that the claimant didn’t miss out because of the tax that has to be paid on the award – was high, despite the tribunal’s refusal to increase the compensation because there was a chance that Mr Browne would have been promoted in the near future. The tribunal found that it would have been ‘far too speculative’ to inflate the award in this way.”

Read summaries of more cases in which employment tribunals paid large awards.

The 2010/11 Tribunals Service report on employment tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal statistics sets out the amount of compensation awarded for race discrimination in 2010/11. 

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