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A former HR officer who lost her employment tribunal case against Cheshire East Council says she will now rebuild her mental and physical health after a demanding 18 months, writes Stephen Topping.

Sue Wallace, of Connah’s Quay, claimed the local authority had unfairly dismissed her in December 2016 because she attempted to highlight a failure to pay the minimum wage to staff who worked ‘sleep-in shifts’ through the whistleblowing process.

But at her 10-day hearing in the Manchester Employment Tribunal last month, CEC said Ms Wallace left the council after her fixed-term contract ended on December 31, 2016.

And it was revealed on Wednesday that the judges had dismissed Ms Wallace’s claims.

Ms Wallace, who represented herself at the tribunal, said: “Whilst I am disappointed in the overall ruling of the tribunal, I am glad that the process is now complete.

“I regret that CEC was not willing to resolve these matters prior to legal proceedings and failed to facilitate the opportunity for an appeal to members, which I believe would have provided a conclusion in its own right.

“As a litigant in person, the stress and strains of the last 18 months have taken their toll on my mental and physical health and I will now be taking sometime to rebuild these.”

Ms Wallace told the tribunal she had submitted concerns to Mike Suarez, then-chief executive at CEC, in an emailed titled ‘Whistleblowing Disclosure’ in November 2016 – and that this was to be followed up with a discussion about ‘sleep-in shifts’.

She claimed that Peter Bates, chief operating officer, knew about the matter and discussed it with her at a meeting the following month – two weeks before he dismissed her by phone.

But Mr Bates denied all knowledge of Ms Wallace raising her concerns about ‘sleep-in shifts’.

He insisted that Ms Wallace’s attempt to raise a whistleblowing matter was regarding a HR restructure, that she had turned down the offer of both a permanent contract and a temporary extension before her fixed-term contract ended at the council, and that the phone call was to inform her the contract was ending.

Ms Wallace added: “The tribunal ruling includes confirmation of a protected disclosure made in November 2016 and acts amounting to detriment resulting from CEC acts or failure to act – but which failed in the claim on causation.

“Detriments included breach of the dismissal procedure and failure to properly investigate matters raised.

“I hope that the council will take the opportunity to explore the outstanding questions and management learning that this process offers them.”

In a statement released yesterday, Kath O’Dwyer, acting chief executive at CEC, said: “We welcome the employment tribunal ruling.

“The council regrets that this matter could not be resolved prior to legal proceedings but, after full consideration of the circumstances, we felt that there was no alternative but to defend the allegations made.

“Staff are our most important asset and are essential for the effective delivery of council services.

“The council is committed to ensuring that all of our staff feel safe and able to raise any concerns they may have about work matters.”

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