“I can’t find the words to thank UNISON,” member Karen Allen-Powlett declared after an industrial tribunal ordered Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to give her her job back.
The tribunal said the board had acted unfairly in sacking the nurse for frequent short-term sickness absences at a time when she was experiencing domestic abuse and ruled that that she must be allowed to return to work and must be paid compensation for her loss of earnings.
UNISON backed her case, along with its legal partner Thompsons solicitors, and criticised what it called a “draconian” application of the board’s sickness absence policy.
Ms Allen-Powlett was a general nurse working in the cardiac intensive care ward.
She took 15 short-term absences from work in her first two years’ employment with the trust, a number of which were for migraines caused by the mental stress of her husband’s violence.
Police eventually forcibly removed him from the home and the end of the relationship saw a return to better health.
UNISON briefing: Domestic violence and abuse – a trade union issue
But after she took one day off with flu during the following seven months, the board dismissed her – and argued that her attendance had not shown “significant improvement”.
She had told her supervisor six months earlier that the underlying reason for her previous ill health was her violent husband.
Following the tribunal ruling that she should be rehired and compensated, Ms Allen-Powlett said: “I’ve always given my all in my job. There’s never been an issue over my performance and I was regarded as a good nurse.
“I lost my marriage – and then to lose my job was a great shock. I was helpless and grieving and it felt like the end of my life. My sacking forced me into financial hardship.
“I can’t wait to get back to work.
πThe fact I have a chance of a new start is down to UNISON’s support and its legal team. I can’t find the words to thank them enough. They helped me get the justice I deserve.”
UNISON organiser Andrew Woodman commented: “This is a significant victory for Karen and the right of all employees to be treated fairly.
“We hope this judgement marks a return to greater respect at work and allows everyone to focus on providing the best care possible to the community.”