Woman successful in unusual breach of contract claim against Holland & Barrett

by Employment Law Advice Solicitors on January 8, 2013

  • SumoMe

A news item in the Pink News recently reported the success of a woman’ Employment Tribunal claim after she was forced to go off work sick because of the conduct of her husband.

Mother-of-two Olga Gofmane, 34, emigrated to the United Kingdom with her husband approximately ten years ago. She worked for Holland & Barrett in one of their branches in Reading, Berkshire, as a manager. However, her marriage broke down last year after her husband revealed to her that he was gay, resulting in Mrs Gofmane suffering from a severe bout of depression. This caused her performance at work to suffer and she became to make mistakes in her management role. However, despite these problems she remained at work as she had to support herself and her children.

Her managers at Holland & Barrett, however, launched a disciplinary procedure against her after a number of mistakes were discovered and she was also criticised by line management after she had to take an unauthorised day off work sick on a Saturday when her daughter was ill. Mrs Gofmane, in return, claimed that she had alerted line management by text that she would be obliged to take that day off.

Matters came to a head in March 2011 when her doctor advised that Mrs Gofmane take a period of time off work to recuperate. She was therefore signed off work on 20 March 2011. Holland & Barrett were alerted of this but when Mrs Gofmane received her April 2011 payslip she found that statutory sick pay had been deducted from her company pay slip, leaving her with a net payment of £1.50. She said that this had left her at her wits’ end and that she had had to return to work early to be able to pay her bills. She subsequently issued a claim for breach of contract and a disability discrimination claim after seeking employment law advice.

The Employment Tribunal found that Holland & Barrett had acted in breach of contract by deducting Mrs Gofmane’s sick pay but that the company did not have liability for disability discrimination. The company was ordered to pay £77.40 to Mrs Gofmane to pay for a loan that she had to take out to cover her expenses during the period in which she had a shortfall in income. However, the Employment Tribunal found that Mrs Gofmane had failed to show that she had a disability and that, even so, the company was not aware that she had a disability at the time it started disciplinary proceedings or deducted her sick pay. Further, the Employment Judge accepted Mrs Gofmane’s regional manager’s contention that she had suspended Mrs Gofmane because of issues relating to her absence reporting and not because of her disability.

Employment Law Advice Solicitors are employment law solicitors based in the City of London.

  • http://www.amsadvocaten.com Laura | Dutch Law Firm AMS

    Interesting case. I’m curisous how this case would have gone in The Netherlands.

    We expect many changes in employment law in 2013 . On 5 November 2012 the new government was sworn in by Queen Beatrix, and announced its plans with respect to the Dutch labour-market. The plans will have a major influence on employee dismissal protection; furthermore, unemployment benefits rights will be shortened.

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