Sleep deprived care worker wins case

A former social worker who was sacked by his employer after he
became too exhausted to do nightshifts in a children’s home won a
case of unfair dismissal and breach of contract last week.

Frank Higgins, who was employed by Stoke-on-Trent Council, refused
an alternative lower-paid job after he 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 the
sleep-in, then working the next day from 7.30am to 3pm.

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

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,
he decided to file for unfair dismissal.

The employment tribunal in Birmingham decided the council had not
followed procedures that require employers to make reasonable
adjustments for employees.

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

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

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