'There was no final straw' - Judge rejects former Arlesey town clerk's 151-page claim that she was unfairly forced out
PUBLISHED: 19:00 04 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:10 05 May 2017
A former town clerk who claimed to have been unfairly forced from her position was incompetent to the point of 'wilful negligence', an employment judge has ruled.
Elsie Hare, 75 – who was clerk for Arlesey Town Council from 2005 until she resigned in February 2015 – alleged constructive unfair dismissal, claiming that some councillors had harassed and bullied her into leaving.
But Employment Judge Valentine Adamson rejected almost all the allegations in Mrs Hare’s 151-page claim – which related to four years of events leading up to when she resigned, ‘having lost confidence in Arlesey Town Council as an employer’.
Judge Adamson, sitting in Bedford, said in his report: “The overwhelming majority of the claimant’s allegations have been found not to be established or not as she described them.”
He added: “I am not persuaded that there was a final straw as alleged. It follows that the complaint of unfair dismissal does not proceed.”
The judge concluded that Mrs Hare had resigned when she did in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid disciplinary proceedings, which he found would have resulted in her dismissal in any case.
He cited Mrs Hare’s incorrect calculation of holiday pay for a former employee, and the fact that she subsequently acted on advice from her husband Tony Hare on that matter rather than going through proper channels.
This behaviour, the judge said, ‘amounted to gross misconduct in the sense that it was wilful negligence’.
The decision comes after protracted and much-adjourned employment tribunal proceedings, which were initiated in 2015 and heard in July 2016 and March this year.
Among other things, the judge rejected Mrs Hare’s claim that councillors Mick Holloway, Chris Gravett, Darren Hazelwood and Andy Ward had harassed her through what she called an unreasonably high volume of queries.
He said: “The matter about which the claimant complained regarding the councillors was the volume of work they generated by their enquiries and activities as councillors.
“I have not found that there was anything in the claimant’s grievance that she had been bullied or harassed by the four named councillors.”
The judge also noted that only Mr Holloway remained a councillor by the time Mrs Hare raised this grievance in November 2014.
The only matter on which her case had any merit, the judge said, concerned the alleged conduct of then-councillors Hugh Harper and Ian Dalgarno in 2011 – but she had waived this issue by continuing in her post after they and four others resigned, he said.
The town council itself has not escaped without criticism, however, with Judge Adamson calling it ‘inexplicable’ and ‘a breach of natural justice’ that the council had deemed Mrs Hare’s grievances in 2014 to be resolved without investigating the conduct of councillors Holloway, Gravett, Hazelwood and Ward.
Mrs Hare – who said she had intended to work until she turned 75 in December 2016 – claimed that the town council’s conduct had left her without the confidence to seek alternative work.
The judge rejected this on the grounds that she presented no supporting medical documentation or evidence and never made enquiries about other jobs.
Judge Adamson ordered Mrs Hare to pay the town council costs of £350, concluding that ‘there is no suggestion that such an award would cause exceptional difficulty to her’.
Mrs Hare had also claimed about £454 of wages in arrears for unused time off in lieu, which the town council paid during the adjournment between July 2016 and March this year. She then withdrew the wages complaint.
You can read the full employment tribunal decision at assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5909de2ee5274a06b000027d/Ms_E_Hare_v_Arlesey_Town_Council_3400997.2015.pdf.