Former social worker wins case over exhaustion

A former social worker who was sacked by his employer after he
became too exhausted to do nightshifts in a children’s home
and then refused an alternative lower paid job, has won a case of
unfair dismissal and breach of contract, writes Sally

Frank Higgins, who was employed by Stoke-on-Trent council in one
of its children homes, had complained that he was unable to do
night work without at least eight hours’ sleep.

He had become exhausted after doing a shift twice a week that
involved him working from 2.30pm to 11pm, retiring for a sleep-in,
then working the next day from 7.30am to 3pm.

Higgins’s occupational health doctor contacted the council
suggesting changes to the staff rota, which would have allowed him
an eight-hour uninterrupted rest between shifts.

But instead the council offered him another, lower grade job,
which Unison advised him to accept. But after seeking advice from
six solicitors and the Arbitration, Conciliation and Advisory
Service (ACAS), he decided to file for unfair dismissal.

An employment tribunal in Birmingham decided that Stoke had not
followed procedures that require employers to make reasonable
adjustments for employees. The level of compensation will be
decided at a later date.

Higgins said: “I am absolutely over the moon at the result. The
anxiety it has caused has been terrible. It is a weight off my

Phillip Swann, director of social services at Stoke-on-Trent
council, said: “It is common practice to have these shift patterns
in children’s homes. But we now have 42 days in which to
respond to the judgement, and we will be seeking advice and
considering our position.”

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