A woman who was sacked for self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic has won £7,000 in a tribunal.
But now her former boss is going to appeal against that decision.
The tribunal unanimously agreed Jackie Reid was unfairly dismissed by The Good Health Store Ltd in Port Erin and also suffered unlawful deductions from her pay.
Mr Stewart and the panel awarded Mrs Reid a total of £7,161.
However, Kirsten Bennett, who owns the shop, intends to appeal against that decision.
She told the Manx Independent: ’We are disappointed with the outcome and intend to appeal against the decision. It has been a very difficult time for everybody, most people have someone to protect, if not themselves.
’We are grateful to all the essential workers who did go to work in the hospital, schools and the shops ensuring the food supply.
’Their commitment has allowed the island to achieve its current standing.’
Mrs Reid told the Manx Independent that she hadn’t intended to go to a tribunal until she was advised to by her friends and family.
She said the experience had left her ’scared to go back out to look for work’.
She added: ’I want this to go public as I don’t want this to happen to someone else. If someone else is in the position I was, then fight it.’
The tribunal heard that Mrs Reid had self-isolated at the start of the pandemic due to her being a type one diabetic after the government advised vulnerable groups to avoid contact where possible.
Mrs Reid told her employer, Kirsten Bennett, that she would be required to self-isolate and that she was concerned this may have to be for up to 12 weeks.
After consulting with her GP, Mrs Reid spoke to Ms Bennett over the phone on March 20 that she had been advised to self-certificate from work for 14 days.
Mrs Reid’s partner is also in a vulnerable category because of his age.
On March 31, she contacted Ms Bennett and offered to return to work immediately and that she would only be limited by the restrictions which impacted others in the community.
She told the tribunal Ms Bennett ’reacted negatively and rejected this, saying she had no other choice’.
Mrs Reid contacted the Manx Industrial Relations Service and asked Ms Bennett to explain her employment status. Ms Bennett said that she considered Mrs Reid to have resigned.
Ms Bennett asked why Mrs Reid had wanted to isolate when there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the island, but wanted to return to when this had risen to 49 cases.
Mrs Reid said she ’had acted in accordance with the medical advice from her doctor’ and had shown no signs of the virus and felt okay.
During her evidence, Ms Bennett said Mrs Reid had ’abandoned her job without notice, without regard to the other employees or to the business’.
She added that under the agreed terms of employment, "leave has to be taken at such time as shall be mutually agreed in advance between you and the company".
The report said: ’Ms Bennett felt that she had been left short-staffed with so many worries.
’She felt badly let down by the complainant walking out and talking about being "arrested" for being away from her home and in the store on March 17.’
Mrs Reid had referred to a fear of being arrested due to restrictions on movement and reports in the media throughout the lockdown.
Ms Bennett accepted that there was a holiday clause in the terms and conditions of employment. It was put to her that she had used that clause to suggest that the complainant had abandoned her job.
Ms Bennett said that if the complainant had thought that being absent from work would be best, then she could have used her holiday.
Ms Bennett added: ’I would say, why should I not sue her for breach of contract.’
According to Ms Bennett, the complainant had said neither that she was isolating nor that she was coming back.
In his ruling, Mr Stewart said: ’Ms Bennett had taken the view that it was she who was the victim.
’In her opinion, and as she testified, she could have sued the complainant for breach of contract because the complainant had abandoned her by walking out with no indication of when she would return.
’That approach is wrong in law. Had Ms Bennett not been so confident of her opinion on the law and had she checked with MIRS, she might have saved herself considerable time, worry and expense.’
He added that the tribunal had ’no reason to disbelieve that the complainant had heard by March 17 that, for vulnerable persons, self-isolation for a 12-week term could/might be necessary’.
’For many, that has certainly been entirely accurate. That may not have been immediate government guidance by that date but there certainly was confused speculation about who was vulnerable and what were the implications.’
While saying the tribunal was unanimously ruling Mrs Reid had been unfairly dismissed, it also agreed that Mr Bennett was ’under considerable pressure’ due to supplier issues and the looming pandemic.
Mr Stewart said: ’It would be harsh to criticise the complainant with her own health condition and that of her vulnerable partner when she took the view that she might be absent for 12 weeks.
’The tribunal cannot conceive that she took any pleasure from her visit to inform Ms Bennett of the position.
’With no express provision in her contract for entitlement to sick pay, she was facing a position of financial uncertainty coupled with her natural fears about health.
’It was to her credit that she established that fears of a 12-week period of absence, such as restricted the lives of many people, was not going to apply to her and that she would be able to return to work - only to find that she was not welcome.’
The tribunal awarded Mrs Reid a basic award of £528, losses up the hearing of £4,448, loss of statutory rights of £345, unlawful deductions from pay of £1,584 and unlawful deductions of £256 - bringing a total of £7,161.