Bank cashier wins £20k payout from Santander for unfair dismissal after she was sacked for not behaving ‘professionally’ enough while suffering a miscarriage at work
- Santander dismissed Chi Agbaje from her job at one of its High Street branches
- Bank fired her for acting in an ‘unacceptable’ manner while suffering miscarriage
- An employment tribunal found she was unfairly dismissed and owed £19,702
A female bank worker who was sacked for not behaving ‘professionally’ while suffering a miscarriage at work has won almost £20,000 in compensation.
Santander dismissed Chi Agbaje from her job at High Street branch in in Bexleyheath, London, after she became distressed at the prospect of losing her baby and collapsed.
The bank accused her of acting in a ‘wholly unacceptable’ and unprofessional manner during the incident and fired her for gross misconduct.
Now an employment tribunal has found she was unfairly dismissed and ordered the Spanish financial giant to pay her damages.
Santander dismissed Chi Agbaje from her job at its High Street branch in Bexleyheath, London, after she became distressed at the prospect of losing her baby and collapsed (stock image)
Mrs Agbaje was working at the till at the Santander branch when she began experiencing severe abdominal pain, a hearing was told.
The then mother of one had been undergoing IVF after experiencing fertility problems and had not told colleagues that she might be pregnant, the tribunal heard.
The bank worker told her manager she was unable to carry on with her work and moved to the staff canteen area where the panel heard she was uncommunicative and in considerable distress.
Mrs Agbaje had to rush to the toilet – knocking a chair as she ran – as she felt increased bleeding and pain. Her screams and cries of distress were heard in the corridors – including the banking hall where customers are served, the tribunal heard.
The then mother of one had been undergoing IVF after experiencing fertility problems and had not told colleagues that she might be pregnant
She then collapsed on the floor after leaving the toilet during the incident on March 7 2014, the Central London Employment Tribunal was told.
The hearing was told that her manager, Jackelyn Daley, photographed and recorded a short video of Mrs Agbaje lying immobile on the floor and waited for twenty minutes before calling the emergency services.
Mrs Agbaje, who works as a Customer Support Adviser, was taken to nearby Davent Valley Hospital with her husband by paramedics.
She lost the baby – who was less than 12 weeks old – and did not return to work until the following October, when the bank suspended her. She was then informed she was being investigated for gross misconduct.
Meanwhile Mrs Agbaje become pregnant again and took maternity leave from her job in November 2014. She was ready to return to work in March 2016 but found herself being interviewed as part of the disciplinary process.
Ms Daley claimed that during the inclident Mrs Agbaje had come out of the toilets and proceeded to ‘scream, shout and thrash against the wall and the Fax machine, throwing herself on the floor kicking out her legs, wailing and flailing her arms’.
But the bank worker told investigators this was because she was distressed. ‘I screamed and I was crying. I did not want to lose my baby. My behaviour was due to me thinking I was miscarrying’.
A disciplinary hearing, chaired by Managing Director Andrew Briggs, was held in 2017 – three years after the incident – and Mrs Agbaje was dismissed for gross misconduct.
He said: ‘In simple terms, you had a serious outburst in branch.
‘[You] seemed to lose control of your emotional state and acted aggressively in front of staff and customers. [Your behaviour] was both verbally abusive and aggressive and wholly unacceptable and constitutes gross misconduct.’
Mr Briggs claimed there was ‘insufficient evidence’ of Mrs Agbaje’s actions were as a result of a miscarriage. This was despite the disciplinary officer having a London Ambulance report which confirmed bleeding and threatened miscarriage.
Santander senior executive Christopher Fallis, who chaired her subsequent appeal, agreed with Mr Briggs’s conclusions.
He said: ‘[Your actions were] wholly unacceptable and regardless of whether you considered you needed medical attention, this could have been handled in a professional manner which would have avoided this incident.’ The appeal was refused.
But the tribunal concluded that both the investigation into the incident and the disciplinary process were botched.
Judge Michael Ord criticised branch staff for being more concerned with ‘balancing the tills’ than ensuring their colleague was being cared for.
He said: ‘The Tribunal have found it difficult to understand how a woman in those circumstances can be criticised for not behaving ‘professionally’ when suffering a miscarriage.’
The Tribunal found that Mrs Agbaje had been unfairly dismissed and ordered Santander to pay her £19,702 in compensation.
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