A former risk and compliance officer at National Westminster Bank (NatWest) was awarded nearly 88,000 pounds (U.S. $112,000) after a U.K. employment tribunal found she was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against during her sick leave for colon cancer.
Adeline Willis, who was notified of her redundancy in April 2020 two days after undergoing cancer surgery, will receive £35,000 (U.S. $45,000) for “injury to feelings” as part of the award total. The tribunal published its remedy judgment Monday.
After informing NatWest’s human resources department of her diagnosis in August 2019, Willis continued to work part time in the office and from home while attending hospital appointments, according to earlier proceedings in the case.
In September 2019, Willis’s line manager and an HR representative discussed the possibility of terminating her sick leave early because of her treatment schedule, according to the tribunal.
Willis’s line manager rationalized her decision to “replace [Willis]” because she couldn’t rely on her to finish a critical piece of work, according to a transcript of the correspondence.
“‘While she is traveling hopefully and thinks she is going to be completely functional until the end of the year, I still in my mind got to replace her because I just can’t rely on it, it’s too critical,’” the line manager allegedly said.
Willis was told her sick leave application was in progress and likely to be extended, but the tribunal determined from email communications the bank only sought an extension on compassionate grounds, with no intention of having her return after treatment.
The email correspondence indicated Willis’s HR representatives did not clarify to her and the department if her job would still be available after treatment, the judgement stated.
The tribunal found NatWest’s decision to terminate Willis’s employment as “tainted with discrimination.”
“We are pleased that this issue has now been resolved,” a NatWest spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are sorry that there were things the bank did not get right and where we fell short of the standards our colleagues expect. We recognize the extremely difficult personal circumstances in this case and have taken steps to ensure this cannot happen again. Building a truly inclusive culture remains an ongoing priority for everyone working at NatWest.”