Trade union law firm wins landmark case rescinding temporary suspension order

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A law firm owned by trade unions has won a landmark case on behalf of a care worker for the rescission of a temporary suspension order imposed on him.

At Dundee Sheriff Court, Unionline Scotland acted for a care worker from the city in a successful appeal to rescind a six month temporary suspension order imposed on its client by the Scottish Social Services Council’s Fitness to Practice Panel.

This is the first such successful appeal in Scotland.

Brian McLaughlin, head of employment law at Unionline Scotland told Scottish Legal News: “Our client had first been investigated by the SSSC in 2015 for allegations of misconduct which he disputed. The SSSC took a decision at that time not to seek a suspension.

‘My client continued to work for the same employer, receiving glowing assessments, for a further two years when the SSSC saw fit to refer him to a Fitness to Practice Panel  in respect of the same allegations. They recommended that my client be temporarily suspended while investigations into the allegations took place. Such a practice of suspending workers – while necessary in some cases – is all too common.”

A freedom of information request carried out by Unionline Scotland showed that over 90 per cent of preliminary hearings result in a suspension order being granted.

This compares to between nine and 32 per cent for doctors.

Mr McLaughlin said that being suspended, even for a matter of months, can have “devastating consequences for already low paid workers” and that “In the private sector in particular employers are often unable to redeploy workers who then lose their livelihood.”

He added: “Our client was fortunate in that he had supportive employers who redeployed him, albeit at a lower wage rate. Our instructing trade union, GMB Scotland have been campaigning long and hard to highlight the iniquities in the SSSC disciplinary process and its punitive effect on their members. Unionline Scotland were happy to take up the challenge and appeal the suspension order.”

Counsel for the appellant, Dorothy Bain QC, argued that the decision to suspend the care worker was unreasonable, not proportionate, was not necessary for the protection of the public and was not in the public interest.

Sheriff Alison Smith agreed and directed that the suspension order have no effect.

Mr McLaughlin said: “Unionline Scotland are thrilled with this success both for our individual client, but also the for the many GMB and other low paid workers who will benefit from the decision.”

Unionline Scotland is part of UK-wide law firm Unionline, which is owned by the GMB and CWU trade unions.