Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 3

Letter to Ms Maria Fernandes

from Bulfin & Company, Employment Law Solicitors


We have been instructed on behalf of the above-mentioned in relation to her employment with your firm.

We are instructed that our client became ill earlier this year as a result of considerable stress and pressure which she suffered in the course of her employment. Our client commenced a period of sick leave on 15th May, 2000 and has been unable to return to work since. You have been supplied with the relevant medical certificates.

We have taken full instructions in this matter and have seen all relevant correspondence passing between yourself and our client's husband. We can see that our client claims that her ill-health has been brought about through the unreasonable demands made upon her in the course of her employment and your lack of regard for the duty of care owed to her as an employee. Our client's current position is that she is neither fit to return to work for the foreseeable future nor can she see herself returning to your employment given your treatment of her. We can also see from the correspondence that our client's claims are not admitted by you and we do not doubt that if this matter were brought before an Employment Tribunal by way of a constructive dismissal claim, the case would be strenuously defended. For the record, we have also advised our client with regard to potential personal injury and Disability Discrimination Act claims.

However, our purpose in writing to you at the present time is to explore the possibility of resolving this matter amicably. Quite obviously, even if our client were fully recovered from ill-health, it would not be possible for her to return to her former employment, given the size of your business and the fact that she would have to work under the same, if not more strained, conditions. We would also have thought it in your interest to resolve the matter speedily. Although our client is in receipt only of Statutory Sick Pay, this is a commitment that you will be required to make for several weeks, at the same time as incurring the cost of temporary replacements to cover our client's position. We understand that you currently employ three agency workers to cover our client's previous workload. Additionally, we are aware of your high profile within the Law Society and that of your husband, and would have thought that you would prefer to deal with this matter in a discreet way, rather than publicly in the Employment Tribunal. Please be assured that by referring to this fact, we are not making any veiled threat or other intimation. We are simply stating the facts. It is fair to say, however, that if this matter can be resolved amicably, our client would be prepared to sign a Compromise Agreement containing relevant confidentiality clauses.

At this stage, we simply wish to put forward the idea of exploring settlement and we would not be so presumptuous as to put forward any proposals until receiving a favourable indication from you. However, we can indicate our client would be looking for a termination payment and a reference as part of any termination package.

We would be obliged to receive your early response as a speedy conclusion to this matter would, without question, aid our client's recovery.

11 July 2000

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