Cleaner unfairly dismissed after using trade union to make complaint

A cleaner has won his case of unfair dismissal after he made complaints about safety conditions and lack of personal protective equipment during the Covid pandemic. 

Mr Hernandez began working for Swiftclean in September 2018. In January 2020, along with two colleagues, he made a protected disclosure via a trade union representative. 

There were various complaints about conditions including being pressured to work extra time; inadequate equipment; having to drive a car with expired insurance; and not being given gloves to use when cleaning toilets.  

He made a second disclosure in May 2020, reiterating the previous concerns and adding there had been a lack of appropriate training and equipment made available during the pandemic. 

Hernandez’s trade union representative also sent an email requesting a formal consultation about the risks posed by Covid-19. 

Hernandez was told by his manager, Augusto Costa, that he needed to use his personal mobile for work matters outside of his working hours. When Hernandez refused to do so, Costa responded: “If you can use your mobile to call your shitty union that is worthless you can also call me.”  

Hernandez believed he was being prevented or deterred from making use of trade union services. 

He received a letter in September dismissing him for “poor performance” following alleged “complaints from clients”.   

He took his case to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in his favour. 

Judge Smeaton noted that the alleged complaints were not shown to Hernandez and no process was followed in dismissing him.  

He had appealed his dismissal with the help of his trade union, but Costa did not provide an appeal hearing.   

The judge summarised that Hernandez was dismissed because his employer was “annoyed he had raised protected disclosures and used his trade union in order to do so”.  

Hernandez’s claims of unfair dismissal were well-founded. 

Compensation will be assessed at a separate hearing. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law. 

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