SUN ALLIANCE BULLYING CASE TO BE REHEARD

For immediate release February 12th 1997

From: Lyn Witheridge - The Andrea Adams Trust - 01273 704900

Lyn Witheridge, co-founder of the Andrea Adams Trust and active campaigner for effective legislation to protect employees from workplace bullying has won an Employment Appeal Tribunal against her former employers the finance giant Sun Alliance Insurance Group.

On 6 February 1997, Mr Peter Clark, Employment Appeal Tribunal Chairman upheld the submissions of Lyn's Counsel Mr Jason Galbraith-Marten in that the five-day Industrial Tribunal led by Mr I Edwards in November 1995 at Brighton misdirected itself in law in that it failed to address itself to the question of whether Lyn's redundancy was genuine and further failed to make any relevant findings of fact in relation to the question.

Lyn, who had worked with the Sun Alliance Group for ten years, had claimed she had been unfairly dismissed from her role as Personnel & Administration Section Manager and alleged that she had been the target of a three year campaign of unreasonable and malicious treatment, stress and bullying by her managers. Mr Ken McAleer, general secretary of the Sun Alliance Staff Union, stated at Tribunal in 1995 that her redundancy was not genuine and was part of a bullying campaign to which she had been subjected. In a press release, Mr McAleer stated that the `malicious treatment she was the recipient of did not end until Sun Alliance engineered a redundancy to get rid of this highly competent individual whose health had seriously deteriorated'. He then added `that recent cases of workplace bullying have been disturbing but this must rank as one of the worst so far, especially as Mrs Witheridge was employed to give counselling and personnel advice to others.

Lyn, who suffered a stress breakdown following the 1995 Tribunal founded the Andrea Adams Trust in June 1996 to continue the work of her friend, the journalist and broadcaster Andrea Adams, who was the first person to recognise the significance of bullying in the workplace and its overwhelmingly destructive influence on peoples' lives and personalities. Andrea's death in 1995 left a legacy of many people affected by her personality and her work, amongst whom was Lyn, who felt deeply that Andrea's contribution must not be forgotten and that the work she had started must be continued. The Trust, which has already inspired over 400 members to support them, and which has already helped many bullied employees, is to be formally launched at a conference organised by the Industrial Society on June 5th at Staffordshire University.

A priority is to set up a national helpline supported by barristers, solicitors, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, employment law specialists, unions, etc. The Trust aims to become the natural focus for the diverse needs and agenda inevitably elicited by this emotive topic which touches so many people. Lyn Witheridge believes a cultural change is essential, underpinned by legislation to achieve an effective redress for bullying and actively supports the MSF Union in their pioneering campaign against bullying at work. This has resulted in a private members bill "The Dignity at Work Bill 1996" which the Labour Peer Lord Monkswell has just steered through the House of Lords and into the House of Commons for its first reading sponsored by MP Anne Campbell. It is very much hoped that this bill will be on the statute books by the end of this parliamentary period.

The purpose of the bill is to give people bullied at work a legal right of complaint to an Industrial Tribunal without having to rely on the Sex Discrimination Act or the Race Relations Act. The bill is the workplace equivalent of the anti-stalking bill and is the culmination of ten years of work started by the late Andrea Adams. Lyn views the bill as the most important piece of proposed legislation this decade, for it signals a subtle but far- reaching shift in society's attitude and a new consensus that bullying is no longer acceptable. Lyn's timely legal victory follows both the publication of campaigner Tim Field's horrifying exposť of bullying in his ground-breaking book "Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying" and the Institute of Personnel and Development's survey revealing that "1 in 8 people have been bullied at work in the last five years and over half of those who have experienced bullying say it is commonplace in their organisations".

With estimates of the cost of stress now exceeding £12 BILLION and many pundits now saying that bullying is one of the major causes of stress, Lyn is urging MPs on all sides to support the bill. Lyn believes that the widespread phenomenon of workplace bullying is one of the most destructive forces eroding the professional lives of men and women who have to go to work. Unfair dismissal claims and judgements have jumped 54% in under 10 years, with a 90% leap in cases going to Tribunal. However, abused employees are no longer satisfied with the average award of £25,000 and increasing numbers are suing their employers through the civil courts with stress related claims.

Apart from costly settlements resulting from successful claims, public exposure in the courts can be very damaging to corporate image and employers are increasingly offering out-of-court settlements to avoid bad publicity. Bullying at work is the precursor of alarming and unimagined misery for its recipients and their families, and is synonymous with tragic circumstances. Lyn's 80-year-old mother suffered a severe heart attack and was rushed to hospital the night prior to Lyn's Appeal Tribunal and still remains in hospital.

Other victimised employees relate similar experiences. Sun Alliance claimed that Mrs Witheridge's "allegations of bullying were spurious and nothing to do with her dismissal by reason of redundancy". The case has been referred back to Tribunal for a new hearing FIVE YEARS after Lyn reported her written allegations of bullying to her head office personnel department!

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Lyn Witheridge - Co-founder, Andrea Adams Trust - Andrea Adams Trust, Hova House, 1 Hova Villas, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 3DH, Tel 01273 704900, fax 01273 704901
Lord Monkswell - Chairman, Campaign Against Bullying At Work, House of Lords, Westminster
Chris Ball - MSF Voluntary Sector Secretary - Tel 0207 505 3054, Fax 0207 505 3030
Tim Field - Author Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying and founder, UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, Tel 0700-ACHIEVE (2244383), fax 07000-785776


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