NatWest exec sacked from her £160K job two days after cancer surgery

Female NatWest executive sacked from her £160K-a-year job two days after cancer surgery wins nearly £90K in compensation after tribunal found she was unfairly dismissed

  • Adeline Willis, 45, was fired from NatWest while suffering from colon cancer
  • A tribunal awarded the high-flying executive nearly £90,000 for unfair dismissal

A high-flying NatWest executive has won almost £90,000 after she was sacked from her job just two days after undergoing cancer surgery. 

Adeline Willis, 45, successfully sued the bank for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal after it made her redundant from her £160,000-a-year job.

An employment tribunal heard Ms Willis’ manager asked to ‘replace her’ due to being unable to ‘rely’ on her while she was undergoing treatment for colon cancer. 

The risk and compliance officer was later ‘humiliated’ by her boss, who told her she was not needed at morning meetings, on her first day back at work after chemotherapy 

Ms Willis was later terminated from her job, just two days after undergoing cancer surgery, despite ‘glowing’ reviews of her performance. 

Adeline Willis, 45, (pictured) was dismissed from her £160,000-a-year job at NatWest just two days after undergoing cancer surgery

The employment tribunal ruled the decision to make Ms Willis redundant was ‘tainted with discrimination’ as it said the bank ‘unfairly dismissed’ the executive. 

It awarded Ms Willis £87,699.84, including a £35,000 payout due to injury to the executive’s feelings. 

The payout follows NatWest CEO Alison Rose’s decision to exit her job last week after she came under fire for wrongly briefing a BBC journalist over a decision by the bank’s subsidiary, Coutts, to close Nigel Farage’s account. 

READ MORE: NatWest carnage as shares plunge 3% after boss Alison Rose is forced to quit over Nigel Farage ‘de-banking’ scandal – with calls for the rest of the board to go – while ministers read the riot act to other banks on ‘woke’ culture

The tribunal in central London heard Ms Willis began working for NatWest in September 2013. 

In December 2018 she was told she was being made redundant but successfully applied for a temporary secondment to a different team.

She was given the role Head of Operational Continuity in Resolution Centre of Excellence.

But in early August 2019, Ms Willis was diagnosed with colon cancer. In the following months, both her mother and brother were also diagnosed with cancer.  

Just one month later, Ms Willis’ manager Mary Pragnell, called an HR representative to get advice to ‘replace’ the executive having found out about her treatment plan.

A transcript shown to the tribunal said she had a critical piece of work to deliver and she wanted to ‘replace her’ because she felt she could not rely on her.

‘While she is travelling and thinks she is going to be completely functional until the end of the year, I still in my mind got to replace her because I just can’t rely on it. It’s too critical,’ she said. 

Ms Pragnell admitted that Ms Willis is ‘really very valuable in her subject area’, and that while she did not want to ‘stress her out’, ‘purely selfishly really really I’ve just got a lot to deliver, and I need to deliver it.’

The tribunal found ‘it is apparent at this stage that Ms Pragnell [is] seeking authority to terminate [Ms Willis’] employment because she is likely to be absent from work for a period of time’.

The team had weekly Monday morning meetings which [Ms Willis] had continued to attend during her treatment by dialling in from home.

But on her first day back in the office following her chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment in October 2018, she attended the routine Monday team meeting but was told by Ms Pragnell in front of others that she was ‘not needed’.

She said Ms Willis was being given back ‘an hour of her day’ – which made her feel ‘surprised and humiliated’.

NatWest told the tribunal this was a ‘supportive measure’ to reduce her workload, but the hearing rejected this, as it had not discussed it with her.

At this time, Ms Willis had been told she was being made redundant when her secondment ended in March, but Ms Pragnell told her she should not be looking for other roles, that it was ‘ridiculous’ and she would talk to HR and request an extension.

 The NatWest executive was awarded almost £90,000 by an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal 

In the end, the HR director reluctantly authorised a one-month extension ‘purely out of concern for well-being for the individual given the way it appears it has been managed’.

On February 26 2020, Ms Willis underwent surgery for her cancer.

Two days later, she was told NatWest had agreed to a one-month extension to her secondment but that her last day would be April 4.

Employment Judge Frances Spencer said: ‘We do not accept that [Ms Willis] was dismissed for redundancy. At the time that she left the bank, she was employed to do work…

‘That work had not ceased or diminished. [It] was clear that they still had a requirement for someone in that role at [Ms Willis’] level.

‘We are satisfied that exceptions could be made when it suited the bank. We conclude that [NatWest] has not shown a potentially fair reason for dismissal.

‘However, if we are wrong in this conclusion and [Ms Willis] was dismissed for redundancy, then we find that decision to dismiss was unreasonable.

‘First, it was a decision which was tainted with discrimination.

‘Secondly, the [company] failed to discuss with [Ms Willis] various possibilities for regularising her role or extending her secondment and instead led her to believe that there would be an extension and that therefore there was no need for her to look for alternative roles.’

Source: Read Full Article