‘We Should Have Done Better’, Says Estate Agency After Unfair Dismissal Ruling

An estate agency in east London has expressed deep regret and issued an apology after a former employee was awarded more than £30,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

Chris Williams, described as a ‘conscientious and diligent employee’, headed up Stow Brothers’ property management department.

The court heard that he spent four ‘relatively happy years’ at the company, before the working relationship between Williams and his employers deteriorated.

In May 2019, a tenant was permitted to move into a property without the necessary paperwork and did not pay rent, forcing the agency to compensate the landlord.

Company founder and director Andrew Goad instructed Williams to ‘create’ the missing paperwork required to make an insurance claim covering the cost of this compensation but he refused, the tribunal heard.

When Williams signed off sick from work with stress in February 2020, his departure was nothing ‘other than welcome’ to his boss, the tribunal found.

He was then placed on furlough, during the first lockdown, and was the only employee who remained under the scheme by the end of the year.

In an email sent during this period, Goad wrote ‘this employee’s time is up’ and that he was looking to ‘move forward’ without him.

He also wrote: ‘We always knew it would be tricky to pin him (Williams) down on something.

‘Let’s hope the fear that he might have to return to the office and face up to his colleagues is enough for him to buckle.’

At the end of 2020, Williams was subjected to disciplinary hearings, after being accused of deleting emails from his computer.

The panel found this was a ‘false trail’ designed to create a pretence for dismissal and described a disciplinary hearing as an ‘ambush’.

Williams sued his employers for unfair dismissal after he was sacked in February 2021, workplace harassment and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The tribunal upheld his claim of unfair dismissal and awarded him a total of £30,891 in compensation.

Goad told EYE: “We deeply regret the mistakes we made in the way we dismissed a former staff member by not following the correct due process. We totally hold our hands up to this, it was during the start of Covid where we were desperately trying to keep the business going and we fully accept the fine and the decision, we should have done better. During the tribunal we apologised to the claimant and wished him well and hope that we can now all move on.

“We have made important internal changes to make sure this never happens again.”

Williams also accused his bosses of being homophobic, but the tribunal rejected his discrimination claim.

“We would like to reiterate that all other claims of sexual discrimination and whistleblowing were dismissed,” Goad added.

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