Sacked by British Gas while in a hospital bed

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Bitish Gas

Nigel Winkley, a gas inspector for British Gas, was told he had been made redundant by two Powerpoint-toting British Gas bosses - while he lay in a hospital bed. What's worse, he was recovering from major heart surgery - after suffering a heart attack just five days earlier.

How can this be right?


Shock

The Telegraph reported that Winkley had been lying in his hospital bed, wearing pyjamas and surrounded by other patients, when two of his bosses arrived.

The 40-year-old from Wythenshaw told the Daily Mail that he thought the men had come to visit him, and was too stunned to respond when they broke the news. After the visit he suffered a bout of angina blamed on stress.

His wife Vicky, made a formal complaint. Her husband was offered another role but she said it was too physical given his state of health.

The Mirror reported a British Gas spokesman as saying: "We are very sorry that Mr and Mrs Winkley are unhappy with the way we communicated with them."

"Our intentions have always been to ensure Mr Winkley was provided with the information fully and quickly, and to ensure he didn't receive the details from colleagues or friends."

"We met with Mr and Mrs Winkley recently to address their concerns and have apologised that the news of the site closure was communicated to them in a public place."

"We are reviewing this case to make sure lessons are learnt for the future."

Is this fair?

When a company is deciding who to make redundant, you have certain rights. The firm has to use fair and objective grounds. These can be 'last in, first out', asking for volunteers, disciplinary records, staff appraisals, qualifications and experience. Alternatively they can make you redundant without any selection process if your job no longer exists.

You have to be given notice - and the length of the notice will depend on your length of service. In some instances you are also entitled to redundancy pay. You also have to be consulted about redundancy before they made a decision. According to Citizens Advice if you have not been consulted, your dismissal is potentially unfair even if you are in a genuine redundancy situation.

It seems harsh, but you can be made redundant when you are on sick leave - providing the company follows the correct procedures. The company will have to prove there was a genuine redundancy situation and the fair procedures have been followed. If you seem to have been singled out because of your illness you may have grounds for unfair dismissal.

Of course, there's a world of difference between it being fair to make someone redundant when they are on sick leave, and it being morally right to march into a hospital and deliver the news to a man who has just had heart surgery.