‘Anger at £17,000 NHS Leeds court battle’ | Yorkshire Evening Post | 16 October 2012

From the Yorkshire Evening Post, 16 October 2012 (story by Katie Baldwin)

Health bosses spent £17,600 on THREE failed attempts to overturn a ruling ordering it to pay less than £1,000 to a former worker.

NHS Leeds took the case to the Court of Appeal in London, despite having already lost both a tribunal and an appeal.

An appeal court judge said the law was “certain and clear” that the woman was entitled to paid holiday while off sick.

The Yorkshire Evening Post can now reveal that fighting the case cost the primary care trust £17,640.

That sum could have paid for cataract operations for 18 Leeds residents.

A Leeds MP today attacked the spending, which comes as the NHS faces a massive financial squeeze.

George Mudie, Labour MP for East Leeds, said: “It’s disgraceful spending of public money out of what looks like pig-headedness.

“Nobody chooses to go off sick for a year and the decision to keep fighting this is appalling.”

The Court of Appeal ruled in July that former part-time clerical worker Janet Larner was still entitled to paid leave while she was off ill. Mrs Larner, from Leeds, started employment with NHS Leeds in 2000 as a clerical officer, working 20 hours a week.

Early in 2009, she went on sick leave, later being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.

She took no leave while off sick, saying in her evidence that she was “too ill”.

In April 2010 she was dismissed from her job and was paid in lieu of notice and some outstanding leave – but not for her untaken holiday for the previous year.

NHS bosses said that because she hadn’t made a request to carry it over to the next year, she was no longer entitled to it.

Her case went first to an Employment Tribunal in Leeds, which found in her favour.

NHS Leeds appealed but lost again at an Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Then they took the case to the House of Lords, where again lawyers successfully argued that she could take the leave forward without making a request.

In the judgment, Lord Justice Mummery said: “The law in the claimant’s case is certain and clear.”

Afterwards, Mrs Larner’s union Unite said that even though the case involved a payment of less than £1,000, it upheld an important principle.

NHS Leeds pays for healthcare for city residents, though the organisation will be abolished next year when that power is handed to groups of GPs.

A spokesman said Mrs Larner was employed by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCHT), an arm’s length organisation of NHS Leeds.

A statement on behalf of both bodies said: “Despite the outcome of the Employment Tribunal there was conflicting European and domestic case law on the point of paid annual leave rights on termination of employment after an extended period of sick leave.”

The statement said NHS Leeds and LCHT wanted “a clear line to guide future actions”.

“Both NHS Leeds and LCHT want to be fair to employees and give them their full entitlement under the law.” Mrs Larner, from Leeds, started employment with NHS Leeds in 2000 as a clerical officer, working 20 hours a week.

Early in 2009, she went on sick leave, later being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and depression.

She took no leave while off sick, saying in her evidence that she was “too ill”.

In April 2010 she was dismissed from her job and was paid in lieu of notice and some outstanding leave – but not for her untaken holiday for the previous year.

NHS bosses said that because she hadn’t made a request to carry it over to the next year, she was no longer entitled to it.

Her case went first to an Employment Tribunal in Leeds, which found in her favour.

NHS Leeds appealed but lost again at an Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Then they took the case to the House of Lords, where again lawyers successfully argued that she could take the leave forward without making a request.

In the judgment, Lord Justice Mummery said: “The law in the claimant’s case is certain and clear.”

Afterwards, Mrs Larner’s union Unite said that even though the case involved a payment of less than £1,000, it upheld an important principle.

NHS Leeds pays for healthcare for city residents, though the organisation will be abolished next year when that power is handed to groups of GPs.

A spokesman said Mrs Larner was employed by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCHT), an arm’s length organisation of NHS Leeds.

A statement on behalf of both bodies said: “Despite the outcome of the Employment Tribunal there was conflicting European and domestic case law on the point of paid annual leave rights on termination of employment after an extended period of sick leave.”

The statement said NHS Leeds and LCHT wanted “a clear line to guide future actions”.

“Both NHS Leeds and LCHT want to be fair to employees and give them their full entitlement under the law.”

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