Umbrella Company Employees who have obtained assignments via temporary work agencies may be interested to hear about a recent Employment Tribunal ruling that has awarded an agency worker over £35,000 for unfair dismissal.

Corinda Pegg was dismissed after 44 weeks due to absences that the tribunal heard had been caused by recurrent bouts of depression. Ms Pegg had suffered a succession of bereavements, which necessitated a one-week period of residential care in a mental health facility. Upon returning to work, Ms Pegg explained to her manager when questioned that her occasional lateness was due to her disability. While receiving medical care at home after being hospitalised following a panic attack, she was informed by telephone that she had been dismissed because of poor punctuality and attendance.

Despite her request for confidentiality, work emails indicated that her condition had been openly discussed with colleagues and that discussions about terminating her employment had started before the reasons for her absences had been sought.

The legal question upon which the case hinged was whether equality law protects agency workers against discrimination by the organisations they have been supplied to. The judge found that it did: since Ms Pegg was fulfilling an obligation to work for Camden Council, the organisation was legally obliged not to discriminate.

Wendy Hewitt, deputy director legal of the Equality and Human Rights Commission – which funded Ms Pegg’s case – said: “There was an urgent need to clarify the legal status of agency workers who have been discriminated against, given the increase in this type of working arrangement. This case clarifies that agency workers are entitled to the same degree of protection from discrimination at their place of work as permanent employees.”

Here at Crystal Umbrella, we provide full HR support to both our umbrella employees and our clients to ensure that a workers’ rights are protected and that all legislation is adhered to regardless of the unusual fact that a contractor is not a direct employee of the end hirer. Using a full employment umbrella safeguards both the employee and the end hirer and working through correct processes and procedures will often prevent the need for a tribunal.

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