60-year-old Gran sacked by bosses because she had breast cancer set for employment tribunal win
A 60-year-old Gran is set for a £100,000 compensation payout after taking her old bosses to an employment tribunal after she was sacked from her job after 21 years because she had cancer.
Valerie Axon, who has worked for Coral Racing for the past twenty-one years, was sacked by her bosses after informing them she had breast cancer and that she would need some time off for treatment.
Mrs Axon carried on in her role but later on discovered another lump and informed the retail operations manager, Carol Chown-Smith.
The company then wrongly accused Mrs Axon of drinking whilst at work and was suspended from her retail manager role at Romford Greyhound Stadium, east London, which earned her £35,000 per year.
In November 2015, two months after she was suspended, the grandmother-of-five was sacked.
At the employment tribunal, it was heard that Mrs Axon was actually drinking cordial when she had finished her shift. The company was found guilty of disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.
Mrs Axon, of Romford, said whilst giving evidence at the tribunal: “I felt that the real reason for my dismissal was because I had breast cancer, which involved me taking sick leave of around six and a half months.”
Two Coral chiefs and Ms Chown-Smith denied the fact that cancer had played a part in Mrs Axon’s dismissal.
Judge John Goodrich ruled that Mrs Axon was not consuming alcohol whilst at work and that Ms Chown-Smith’s main motivation for Mrs Axon’s sacking was down to the fact that her cancer had returned and would need more time off work.
“My family and I have been devastated emotionally and financially by my dismissal and it was an ordeal going to the employment tribunal,” said Mrs Axon.
Valerie added how delighted she was to have received justice and hoped that her case would be an inspiration to other employees faced with the same discrimination in the workplace.
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A third of claimants who win their case at an employment tribunal never see any of the money awarded to them
Thousands of employees who’ve won their claim at an employment tribunal, have not yet seen the money they were awarded in compensation.
The UK government maintains that the problem is being looked into and that employers not willing to pay are being forced to do so. However, new data shows that all attempts by the government to make firms ‘pay up’ are so far not working and many claimants are left not knowing where to turn to for help.
The Guardian spoke to Grahame Healiss, aged 27, who was sacked from his call centre job in Liverpool after reporting that his girlfriend was being sexually harassed by one of the team leaders.
The case went before a tribunal, the couple won and they were awarded damages of £40,000 but eight months later, still no payment. Before the final hearing, the company they worked for, M&R Marketing, went into liquidation and thus avoided their liability, a common ploy used by many companies which needs to be addressed by the government.
According to a spokesperson for the government’s Insolvency Service, there are thousands of cases like this one happening every week across the UK but it’s very difficult to prove that the companies involved are going out of business on purpose, just to avoid paying out money awarded.
Government data revealed that over one third of winning claimants never receive any of their awarded compensation and less than half receive payment in full.
“Too many employees who win cases don’t get the money they’re owed. The government must take tough action on employers who refuse to pay up,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary.
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