Sacked cook wins job fight

Brian Higham, employment tribunal story
Brian Higham, employment tribunal story

A COOK who was sacked from his care home job by a doctor has won his fight for unfair dismissal.

Brian Higham, 61, was dismissed from Catterall House Care Home, Catterall, by joint owner Mr Ramesh Gulati in November 2010, after Mr Higham clashed with him over pay issues and changes to his conditions.

An employment tribunal has ruled in Mr Higham’s favour, awarding him £5,250, but also decided the cook, by his “confrontational” manner in one incident, had contributed to his dismissal.

The tribunal, held in Manchester, heard how relations between Mr Higham and the home’s owners deteriorated, eventually resulting in the cook and part-time care worker confronting Mr Gulati in the home’s kitchen on November 8, 2010.

According to the tribunal report, Mr Higham was “aggressive” and “extremely confrontational” and Mr Gulati “felt extremely threatened.”

Two days later Mr Gulati contacted the police and Mr Higham was charged with assault.

In his statement to the police Mr Gulati, of Tarleton, told them he was a GP, which the report points out is untrue. The charge against Mr Higham was later withdrawn.

Mr Gulati invited Mr Higham to a meeting on November 14. He did not attend as he was off sick. Mr Gulati suspended him and invited him to a disciplinary hearing. Mr Higham did not attend that meeting either and was dismissed for “verbal and physical assault.”

He was invited to another meeting, involving Mr Gulati, his wife (and co-owner) Dr Varsha Gulati, but Mr Higham objected to Mr Gulati being present and did not attend. Mr and Dr Gulati then confirmed Mr Higham’s dismissal.

The judgement report says: “The dismissal was clearly procedurally unfair” as the confrontation had involved Mr Higham and Mr Gulati “who then took the decision to dismiss without involving anyone else.”

Mr Higham was also off sick at the time and his “reasonable request for information was not complied with, and Mr Gulati had intended to be involved in the appeal hearing, which did not take place.”

The judgement report adds the dismissal was substantively unfair as Mr Higham had no disciplinary action recorded against him and was good at his job.

The tribunal notes Mr Higham’s upset over alleged underpayments and changes to his terms and conditions but adds a “reasonable employer” would have told him to “return home, calm down and discuss the matter in a rational way the following day.”

It also adds that Mr Higham contributed to his dismissal because of his confrontational attitude to Mr Gulati in the kitchen incident.

The tribunal was satisfied Mr Gulati “felt extremely threatened” and added “it is unacceptable for an employee to behave in the manner the claimant (Mr Higham) did towards his employer.”

The panel decided Mr Higham’s contribution to his dismissal was “substantial.” Because of that the settlement figure was set at £5,250 - rather than a figure of up to three times higher if there had been no such contribution.

Mr Higham, who lived at Cabus, now lives in Bolton. He said he wanted to forget about working at the home and wanted to “move forward with my life”.

Mr Gulati declined to comment.