News & Views

Polish doctor lands highest ever HR award

BY John Wilson
Employment law
BG Purple

A Polish hospital consultant has been awarded a record sum of just under £4.5m by an employment tribunal.

Dr Eva Michalak worked as a kidney specialist at Pontefract General Infirmary in Yorkshire from 2002 until she was dismissed by the hospital trust in July 2008. She raised a tribunal action claiming unfair dismissal, and race and sex HR.  

Dr Michalak took maternity leave in 2002 and, on her return, complained she had suffered sex HR as she was not being paid the same as other staff. This move precipitated a concentrated campaign of sex and race HR against her by her employers during which she was the subject of bogus complaints and unfounded accusations of bullying. She was suspended in January 2006 and it took her employers nearly 18 months to bring disciplinary proceedings against her. She was finally sacked in July 2008.  

This lengthy suspension and the events leading up to her dismissal triggered extreme post traumatic stress disorder and deep depression, leaving her struggling to carry out day to day tasks. The tribunal concluded that she was unlikely to ever be able to return to work and as a result awarded her record compensation for future loss of earnings and loss of pension up until she reached the age of 68.  

In a damning judgment the tribunal said it was "positively outraged” at the way the trust had behaved. Notably, the tribunal held individuals responsible for the treatment of Dr Michalak as well as the trust where she worked. Her £4,452,206.60 award dwarfs the previous record award of £2.8m. However, this includes a substantial “grossing up” to take account of tax. Employers should note that this level of award is extremely rare as courts and tribunals are keen to limit compensation for future loss and it is extremely rare for a panel to decide that a claimant will never be able to work again.

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