A journalist has been awarded £95,000 after a tribunal found he was unfairly dismissed from his job as editor of Hotel and Restaurant magazine.
Mark Hayes took Press Gazette’s publisher, Quantum Business Media, to an employment tribunal after he was sacked for alleged gross misconduct while he was off work suffering from stress. The award included £28,000 for loss of wages, £35,000 for future loss of wages, £15,000 for injury to feelings and £10,000 for personal injury.
The tribunal criticised Quantum management. In making the award, it said: “We have indicated that the conduct of the respondent [Quantum] at various stages might be described variously as perverse and incompetent or in bad faith… in our view it is quite clear that there can be no justification for the actions of the respondent. It is also clear these actions caused very substantial and long-lasting damages to the applicant. In our view the award of compensation and damages we have set out is justified on grounds of justice and equity.”
Hayes was employed by Quantum from 1993 and named B2B Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in the same year. In mid-2000 Hayes, who worked mainly on his own, complained that he was over-worked and under-resourced but the tribunal heard that his bosses at Quantum “had difficulty understanding” what he was complaining about.
In May 2001, Hayes obtained a sick certificate from his doctor, signing him off for two weeks with stress and anxiety symptoms. But his sick pay was stopped after around three weeks when, on medical advice, he refused to take work calls. He was continually signed off work until he was sacked for alleged gross misconduct on 19 September, 2001.
Quantum claimed Hayes had deliberately submitted a false invoice with the intention of securing for his wife payment for work she had not done. Hayes claimed the incident had been an error.
The unanimous opinion of the tribunal was that the disciplinary hearing conducted on 14 September by Quantum into the allegations against Hayes was “unfair”. They also criticised the way an appeal against his sacking was handled.
Hayes said: “I want to thank the NUJ and the legal team they appointed who fought for me all the way. This case shows that even really good and hard-working journalists can become a victim of abuse in a company. I think the summing-up of Quantum’s management who were involved in this case was absolutely right, I couldn’t have put it better myself.” Quantum said in a statement: “We are very disappointed with the judgement of the tribunal and have asked it to carry out a review of its decision relating to possible key omissions.
“The company acted on the information available to it at the time whereas the tribunal had the benefit of the medical reports produced, in some cases up to two years after the dismissal. Quantum Business Media was not aware of Mr Hayes’ disability at the time of dismissal, and in fact only saw the medical reports for the first time when they were produced in the course of these proceedings.
“Whilst we have noted the tribunal’s comments in regards to our procedures, we feel that the outcome would always be the same under circumstances where serious gross misconduct is alleged.
“Quantum Business Media values its editorial staff highly and has excellent employee relations, highlighted by the fact that this is the only employment tribunal claim brought against us involving any members of our editorial teams in our 14-year history.”
By Ruth Addicott