Statement on the dismissal of Aimee Sanderson, and subsequent tribunal
As you'd imagine, we're deeply disappointed that a tribunal found in favour of our former teammate, Aimee Sanderson.
We were shocked that Aimee initiated the tribunal in the first place. When we received the paperwork from her it was the first time we had seen a tribunal claim. We didn't feel it had any merit, and during the tribunal hearing, six members of our team and one of Aimee's own clients gave statements or evidence to say that. Our team didn’t feel they had any choice but to dismiss her given her performance in her role.
We’re obviously disappointed too that Aimee sought so much publicity and took her story to the press. She has said she has wanted to “teach us a lesson” which we feel is unfair, because whilst we have been astonished by the outcome, we nevertheless accepted it gracefully.
As an agency we're proud of our ethos of doing the right thing and of treating our people well, so this case has had a profound effect upon us and our team. We don't feel we had a proper opportunity to have our say in the hearing or the press and don’t feel the process has been balanced.
Aimee presented to the tribunal that Bespoke had sought financial benefit by dismissing her but the tribunal found in our favour on that point. They found that we had always intended to pay her full 9-months maternity pay whether she was dismissed or not, and we did so. We stood to make no financial benefit by dismissing Aimee.
And yet, despite this, they went on to conclude that Aimee was dismissed for some reason outside of the issues with her performance of her duties, even though they agreed there were genuine concerns about her performance.
We recognise that a tribunal can only act on the evidence in front of it, and in hindsight we would have liked to have provided much more evidence. We realise now we were naive and complacent about the tribunal process, whilst Aimee had devoted very significant time and energy to preparing for it.
We take pride at Bespoke at giving people chances. There are countless people we have hired into roles like Aimee's who have gone on to grow their status, salaries and careers, way beyond the norm, and remain with us for many years. We have many people who have started or grown lovely families whilst with us and who have felt supported by us as they have done so.
We're humbled by the way our team approached this issue - even some of our newer teammates. And clients and contacts too, who offered their support. We even heard from several competitors, who shared their own frustrations with us about employment tribunal claims, and the emotional toll of having to fight them.
There is real frustration from many small businesses that since the abolition of fees to bring a case to the employment tribunal there's been such a dramatic increase in claims. Of course, employees should be protected from unfair treatment but that protection needs to run both ways, particularly where small and independently-run business are involved. Having been through the process we don’t feel parties are on an equal footing, at least where small businesses are involved.
Of course, we accept the final decision of the tribunal and move on. We're grateful to be able to focus fully on supporting our current team as they grow their careers and families. One remarkable irony in this case is that one of the people Aimee took issue with had been promoted by us whilst on maternity leave. Our caring and supportive approach over two-decades is not changed by this one case and if anything, our approach has only become even more caring and supportive towards our teammates as a result of it.
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