A small business near Milton Keynes recently found itself
confronted by the daunting and unexpected experience of having to
defend itself against a claim for unfair dismissal and sex
discrimination at an Employment Tribunal.
Solalighting employs eight people and has been trading
successfully for 11 years as the UK distributor for Solatube
Daylighting systems – a novel way to bring daylight into homes and
It signed up with Mentor some four years ago for Employment Law
and Health & Safety services.
In 2010, Solalighting recognised that the marketing function in
the company needed to change, and with Mentor’s advice and guidance
a member of staff was made redundant. As part of the severance
process, the member of staff was asked to return their company
Managing Director Ian Bell came across some messages left on the
phone between the former phone-user and two other current members
of staff – messages which were abusive and personally distasteful
towards the company and a number of other employees.
Ian felt he couldn’t ignore this and asked the two employees to
hand over their company mobile phones for further investigation. He
found that they, too, contained even more disturbing messages,
which were inappropriate and unacceptable.
Counting on the specialists
Ian turned to Mentor. He had dealt with its consultants before
on another minor staff issue and had been pleased with the advice
and support he’d received. Following advice from Mentor, the two
employees concerned were suspended and, after a disciplinary
process set up by Mentor Consultant Judy Foster, both were
dismissed for gross misconduct.
Both employees appealed against their dismissals. The appeal
hearings were chaired this time by Mentor Consultancy Manager
Matthew Hitchins, and both of the dismissal decisions were upheld.
Subsequently, Ian received Tribunal claims on behalf of all three
Mentor’s Senior Litigation specialist, DillyBansal, took charge
of all three claims, and at an early stage was successful in having
the employees withdraw their appeals on the basis that their claims
were without merit and had no prospect of success.
But the third claim, by a long-standing member of staff whom Ian
had regarded as a trusted employee, went ahead. Dilly’s view from
the outset was that the claim had no merit and would be dismissed
at Tribunal; but because the employee had the benefit of legal
assistance cover to pay for the legal fees, it was unlikely that
the employee would withdraw the claim particularly as the employee
had nothing to lose and could not be made personally liable for the
legal fees incurred by Solalighting.
Dilly skilfully conducted the claim from the start to the
Tribunal hearing, which lasted two days, at which the employee’s
claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination were unanimously
dismissed by the Tribunal.
The whole procedure lasted a year.
“I went through a range of emotions,” Ian recalls. “I was
disappointed that people could behave in this way. I was saddened
because I’d trusted them and been good to them. I was irritated
they could go to such lengths. It wasted a lot of time and
In the end, the case was dealt with efficiently and decisively,
“thanks to the Mentor team who are brilliant”, says Ian. “We’ve
found all their staff, including the Advice Service staff, highly
professional, very ready to help – and they’ll be frank when they
need to be.
“They made sure that we documented everything so that, when it
came to the Tribunal, we could rely on evidence that could not be
“I think any business of our size should have an adviser on HR
matters – as well as for Health & Safety concerns. It means
that you can be proactive. It really is excellent value for
If you would
like further information on how
support your sector please click
For details on
help your business in situations like this and many
us today. If you already subscribe to
Mentor, please call the Advice