My Day In Court: The Statement That Wasn’t Needed

Norwich Magistrates' Court. Picture: Denise Bradley.

Norwich Magistrates’ Court. Picture: Denise Bradley.

Those of you who read my blog and who follow me on social media will know of the problems I’ve faced with regards to my former employer at Claws ‘N’ Paws in Sheringham. Needless to say that it’s been a very messy situation, and it’s a situation that led me to instigate Employment Tribunal proceedings against her in an attempt to get the wages she still owes me.

In the run-up to the hearing this past Friday I conducted countless hours of research so I knew what to expect. To help my case I wrote a statement that I intended to make during the hearing. However, I never got to read this statement, mainly because my former employer no-showed, which meant that as she had no defense to offer the Judge ruled in my favour.

This meant that the statement I had prepared wasn’t needed. So instead of shelving it I’ve decided to post it here. The statement basically tells of the situation I and my co-workers were placed in the run-up to the shop’s closure, how we were treated, and how my former employer behaved.

As far as what exactly took place during the hearing, I will probably write a blog about that day in due course, but it’s probably best to leave it until I get the full written judgement from the tribunal.

Here’s the statement:

To understand why I am here today I’d like to take you back to the early months of 2018. It was quite a hectic time for the staff at Claws ‘N’ Paws. In January Mrs. Sidell, the respondent in this case, was diagnosed and successfully treated for breast cancer. In April her husband Ian, the co-owner of the business, was declared bankrupt, something which the staff only found out about a few weeks later when the shop was visited by debt collectors who were looking to claim the business rates that Mrs. Sidell had apparently left unpaid for quite a while.

Then, in May, Mr. Sidell suffered a severe stroke and was hospitalised for a number of months before he was allowed home, where he continues his recovery to this day.

I was also quite ill myself with a severe throat and chest infection, an illness that required hospital treatment. The illness itself meant that I was unable to work for roughly three weeks.

The day after Mr. Sidell suffered his stroke Mrs. Sidell, having just concluded her cancer treatment, turned over control of the business to her longest-running member of staff, Mr. Greg Barker, appointing him as temporary manager, although Mrs. Sidell let it be known that she was always available to offer advice and make decisions that were beyond Mr. Barker’s remit.

During the time of my illness I tried to keep in contact with Mrs. Sidell as much as possible, but I was quite distressed by a couple of the messages I received late at night, one of which indicates that she wanted to dismiss me because I was ill. Indeed, when I did finally return to work Mrs. Sidell didn’t actually speak to me for a further four weeks. This did eventually change thankfully.

Things changed completely during the last week of July. Mrs. Sidell’s visits to the shop were, by this time, few and far between as she continued to visit her husband in hospital, but it was during that week that the landlord put a “to let” sign on the shop because Mrs. Sidell hadn’t paid the rent.

The staff never saw Mrs. Sidell again. When we contacted her about what the landlord had done her only response was “There is nothing I can say that will make any of this better.” Whenever we tried to contact her to discuss what was happening with the business Mrs. Sidell refused to talk about this. In essence Mrs. Sidell had abandoned her staff and business, leaving us to sort out the ever-increasing mess she had caused, such as the time when our main wholesaler refused to deliver to us because Mrs. Sidell had not paid them for some time.

The end came on Wednesday, September 19th. I turned up for work at my usual time to find out that I couldn’t get in because the locks had been changed and that the landlord had taken possession of the premises. I had lost my job.

Despite the fact that the business had closed we had some difficulty getting the documents we needed from Mrs. Sidell so we could claim benefits. Mrs. Sidell claimed that she couldn’t provide us with P45s and P60s because all of the records were on her laptop, which was in the possession of the landlord, despite the fact that she’d purchased an iPad to conduct the company’s business. It also took quite a bit of nagging to get a letter from her officially informing us that the shop had closed and that we had lost out jobs.

The loss of my job left me considerably out of pocket, and although I was able to claim some of the money I was owed through Mr. Sidell‘s bankruptcy case with the insolvency service, I was told that I couldn’t claim any of the holiday pay or wages I was owed because these were accrued after Mr. Sidell had been declared bankrupt, and after Mrs. Sidell had been listed as the owner of the shop.

Which brings us to where we are today. In the nine months since the shop’s closure Mrs. Sidell has refused to communicate with me regarding this matter. She has tried to distance herself from this, even going as far as claiming that I never worked for her when I made my initial claim with this tribunal.

While I admire the responsibility Mrs. Sidell has shown to her family during this difficult time she forgets that she also had a responsibility to her employees, who she often referred to as her “Claws ‘N’ Paws family”. It had been my hope that this matter could have been resolved long ago, but Mrs. Sidell’s refusal to communicate with me, except for the somewhat abusive message she sent to me on May 6th, has made this impossible.

It is my hope that the tribunal will find in my favour given the evidence I have provided here today, and that I can finally put this somewhat sorry affair to an end.