September 17, 2002 08:20
A charity shop manager was discriminated against then sacked by her employers when she became ill with multiple sclerosis, an industrial tribunal heard yesterday.
Theresa Sandford, who was the manager of the British Heart Foundation shop in London Street, Norwich, for five years, says after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 the charity made no attempts to accommodate her needs so she could carry on in her role but dismissed her after she was on sick leave for nearly 10 months last year.
At the tribunal hearing in Norwich, Mrs Sandford, of Horsford, said her confidence was totally knocked and she was left feeling "helpless and useless" when she heard she had lost the job she loved.
She said had she been able to have the odd five-minute break and if other changes had been made – such as the appointment of a support worker or the addition of a lift she could have carried on in her role. She also said if the amount she had to lift and carry could be reduced and if she did not have to use the stairs so much then that would help her position.
She said her employers made assumptions about her illness, thinking she would get worse and not better and that the extent of her symptoms had been incorrectly logged.
When she was dismissed she told the tribunal she was not informed of her right of appeal.
But Steven Gillham, regional manager for the British Heart Foundation, said it was his opinion that Mrs Sandford could no longer be an effective shop manager as it was a "very physical job which was very hard on the feet" as it involved her working on three floors of the building.
He said more than 75pc of her role was physical, involving the sorting and moving of sacks of clothes. As such she would need to be on her feet 90pc of the time. He said it was his understanding that she would need a 10-minute break every hour and that would equate to 17pc of her working day. She could not rely on the support of other staff, including volunteers and assistant managers, as they would often not be there as often as she was.
A chartered surveyor had been consulted over the installation of a lift but it was not feasible.
Mr Gillam said it was with "considerable regret" that the decision to terminate her job was taken as she was a very "good and successful manager" but he felt if she continued in the job it would be to the detriment of the shop and her health.
The hearing continues.
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