Whittington medical secretary sues union for ‘failing to give legal advice over job loss’
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A medical secretary feels she was abandoned by Unison after she returned to work following an injury and found she did not have a job
A court on Friday dismissed Tricia Harrison’s claim and ordered her to pay Unison £1,500 because her case against it was unreasonable.
Ms Harrison arrived back at work after a shoulder injury in summer 2015 to discover she no longer had a job. She had worked as a temporary medical secretary in the Archway hospital’s gynaecology department for six years.
She had been offered a different permanent job months earlier, but never agreed what hours she would work and ended up missing the deadline for signing a contract.
A couple of days after returning to work she claims she was “frogmarched off the premises in a terrible state”. She was told she had not accepted her permanent job and was given notice for her temporary role.
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Representing herself in the small claims division at the Mayor’s and City of London Court, Ms Harrison said she felt betrayed by Unison, which she said didn’t give her adequate legal backing.
She said: “No one rang up to see how I was doing. [...] This is a union that says: ‘We will always support you, we will always advise you, we’re always there.’ Not for me they weren’t.”
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Unison gave Ms Harrison in-house legal advice and told her she did not have a case as she had never accepted a permanent contract.
Ms Harrison told the court Unison should have instructed a team of lawyers, saying only one legal advisor had looked at her case, and she was not convinced he was qualified. The legal advisor never met her in person and just explained her legal position by email.
Martin Dray, sitting as a deputy district judge, found Unison’s legal man was qualified and that Unison fulfilled its duty by looking at the case in-house. He also agreed Ms Harrison never had a permanent job: “From a lawyer’s perspective, you need an offer and acceptance.”
Ms Harrison later hired her own solicitor and received a confidential settlement from the hospital.