Grenfell solicitor wins unfair dismissal claim over redundancy

Grenfell: Role at F&F or redundancy were only options after inquiry work ended

A solicitor made redundant after her work on the Grenfell Tower disaster ended has won a claim for unfair dismissal because her law firm did not properly consider another role for her.

Employment Judge Mark Emery in London found that London firm Bishop Lloyd & Jackson unreasonably failed to consider whether Maureen Uzoamaka Chigboh-Anyadi could be seconded to an associated practice.

She joined the firm in 2018 as a housing solicitor. She became part of the 10-strong team Bishop Lloyd set up to represent affected families at the Grenfell Tower disaster inquiry that began in May that year.

Owner Jhanghir Mahmood bought another law firm, Foster & Foster (F&F), in November 2021. Its work was predominantly social welfare law, including housing, and he told staff that the aim of the deal was to protect jobs once the Grenfell work finished.

Judge Emery said that, by late 2022, F&F had not grown as fast as Mr Mahmood would have liked.

The Grenfell work came to end in autumn 2022; the team had been aware it would be disbanded and, in the absence of alternative work, this would involve redundancies.

Ms Chigboh-Anyadi met Mr Mahmood on 4 October, with no advance notice that it was a redundancy consultation meeting. No notes were taken at the meeting, which the judge criticised, and what was said was disputed.

Judge Emery accepted that the “only realistic options available” for Ms Chigboh-Anyadi were redundancy – which is what happened – or a possible transfer or secondment to F&F.

The judge rejected Mr Mahmood’s “repeated” suggestion that the solicitor expressed no interest in a housing role at F&F. She did raise it at the meeting, he found, but Mr Mahmood’s approach “indicated he was not interested in progressing this as an option”.

“At no time was proper consideration given to an alternative role on secondment at F&F”, the judge said, and this was “outside the range of reasonable responses”.

“In any fair process, where the aim is to avoid redundancies, it is for the employer to assess whether such a role was available and feasible and if so inform her, and if not explain why. In his evidence Mr Mahmood accepted this role may have been an option. This exercise was not undertaken.”

Ms Chigboh-Anyadi appealed and Judge Emery found that Mr Mahmood handing it himself was unreasonable too.

“There was at least one other senior manager who could have handled the appeal, and I did not accept Mr Mahmood’s evidence that her lack of experience of inquiry work meant she could not determine the appeal.”

The judge estimated an 85% chance that a proper consultation would have led to Ms Chigboh-Anyadi being seconded to F&F, although the role would have been on a part-time basis and on a lesser salary given that, initially at least, it would have been a more junior post.

Remedy is to be decided at a separate hearing.

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