Councillor loses case against city charity

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A city councillor who was sacked by a national charity has lost his claim of unfair dismissal following an Employment Tribunal.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Darren Fower was let go last September after he took annual leave from city-based charity Shine due to a panic attack, but told his employers that he was looking after his sister’s children while she was in hospital.

Fellow Lib Dem councillor Asif Shaheed, who also works at Shine, spotted on Facebook that Mr Fower’s sister was actually at a Star Wars convention in London that day.

Following a disciplinary hearing Mr Fower was sacked for gross misconduct having worked at the charity for 10 years as a media development officer. He had previously been signed off work for two months in 2015 for stress and anxiety. A subsequent medical report stated he had “at least mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety or depression” but not a disability.

Mr Fower, who is standing as a prospective candidate today in North East Cambridgeshire in the General Election, said he regretted his actions but that he was feeling much stronger after having time off with his mental health related issues.

Asked why he told Shine he was looking after his sister’s children, he said: “I had just had a panic attack. I panicked.

“I did not want to get into trouble for taking time off sick. There was no financial loss to Shine.

“I did not benefit from my actions. I lost a day’s holiday.”

Mr Fower, who represents Gunthorpe on the city council, said he accepted the tribunal’s decision but added: “I turned down a £5,000 settlement because this was a point of principle for me.

“Shine wanted to silence me.”

He also said he was unhappy with the charity’s handling of the disclosure process at the tribunal.

Shine, based in Park Road, did not wish to comment on Mr Fower’s claims about its finance director and settlement offer.

The charity, which supports people with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus, said: “Darren Fower was dismissed from Shine in September 2016.

“As a result, Mr Fower took a case against Shine to the Employment Tribunal.

“The final hearing was held on 2nd and 3rd May 2017. The Employment Tribunal upheld Shine’s decision to dismiss.”

The tribunal concluded Shine had “reasonable grounds” to dismiss Mr Fower and rejected his claim of breach of contract.

But it awarded him £76.80 he had not been paid for working on the day of his dismissal.