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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 18:39 GMT
Staff bullying payoffs "to soar"
Bullied worker
Unison: employers must tackle bullying or pay the price
Thousands of workers could get better compensation for unfair dismissal after a landmark ruling in a bullying case.

The Court of Appeal overturned an interpretation of the law which limited compensation to financial loss and ignored any mental effects.

Christopher Dunnachie, 36, had appealed against a decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal which stripped him of a 10,000 award for psychiatric damage.

The former Hull City Council worker's case will now go to the House of Lords.

Definitive decision

Two out of three of the appeal judges agreed the 30-year-old Industrial Relations Act could be interpreted to mean compensation could be awarded for any type of loss.

They agreed the case could now go for a definitive decision by the Law Lords.

A spokesman for Unison, who backed Mr Dunnachie's case, said: "Employers must tackle bullying or pay the price."

A union statement later said the decision meant thousands of other claimants could be entitled to additional compensation in the future.

It is also a significant legal move which will make the law on unfair dismissal much fairer
Dave Prentis

Mr Dunnachie, who is married with three children, had worked for Hull City Council for 17 years as an environmental health officer until he was forced to quit in 2001.

He had been subjected to a sustained period of harassment and bullying by his line manager, which went unchecked and unrecognised by his council employers.

He stayed until he found a lower status, lesser paid job with Doncaster Council.

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis called it a "momentous victory".

Psychiatric harm

He added: "It is also a significant legal move which will make the law on unfair dismissal much fairer.

"Until today any compensation award made by an employment tribunal could only take account of economic losses such as being out of work or, as in Christopher Dunnachie's case, being forced to accept a lower paid job.

"Tribunals did not have the power to award compensation for psychiatric harm or distress, humiliation, damaged reputation in the community or to family life."

In most cases, the payment for financial loss is well under 10,000.

At the original Employment Tribunal hearing, Mr Dunnachie was awarded the maximum compensation available at the time of 51,700 plus a basic award of 3,000 and because of this, he will not benefit personally from the latest decision.

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