In Mrs M Williams v Meddygfa Rhydbach Surgery & Others, an employment tribunal has found that an employee was constructively unfairly dismissed when she was bullied during a mishandled performance management process.
Mrs Williams was employed by the Meddygfa Rhydbach Surgery for nearly 30 years. Starting as a receptionist, she was promoted to practice manager after ten years and was well thought of by the doctors at the surgery at that time. The surgery went through a number of financial and personnel changes in 2009. After that time, Mrs Williams was not well regarded by the doctors and was considered to have been "over-promoted". One of the partners, Dr Smits, was reported to be very blunt with Mrs Williams and to shout at her on occasions.
A meeting was held with Mrs Williams in 2014 to discuss concerns about her performance. No management support or training was put in place following this meeting. Mrs Williams asked to be made redundant but she continued to be employed and a practice manager from another practice was seconded to assist her.
In 2015, the partners met with Mrs Williams. During this meeting, Dr Smits raised his voice and banged his hand against a door in frustration. Mrs Williams then took sick leave and brought a bullying complaint to the Health Board against Dr Smits. She later returned to work and raised a grievance with her employer. A grievance investigation was carried out and her grievance was not upheld. Mrs Williams resigned two days later on the basis of a breakdown in trust and confidence in her employer.
Mrs Williams brought an unfair dismissal claim in an employment tribunal. It found that she had been constructively unfairly dismissed. The tribunal found that she had not been properly performance managed and that she had been bullied. The employment judge commented that Mrs Williams had not been given the opportunity to improve in an environment "free from oppression".
This is a first instance case and may be appealed. However, it is a useful reminder that employers should deal with performance issues in an appropriate way so that underperforming employees can be made aware of performance standards and expectations and given an opportunity to improve with support and training where appropriate. A structured performance management process can assist in dealing with problems as they arise and ensuring that resentments and frustrations do not fester.