Fireman wins case for unfair dismissal
By Gemma Lawrence and Jon PettyA FIREFIGHTER who was forced to resign after failing “inappropriate” fitness tests has won his case for unfair dismissal.
By Gemma Lawrence and Jon Petty
A FIREFIGHTER who was forced to resign after failing “inappropriate” fitness tests has won his case for unfair dismissal.
Raymond Lambard took his claim against Essex Fire Service for constructive unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal and learned yesterday he had won his case.
The 54-year-old, who was a retained firefighter in Tiptree for 28 years, said last night: “It wasn't done for money, it was the fact of wanting a fair test.
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“Large corporations lose sight of the people on the ground. I lost all confidence and respect for the Essex Fire Service.
“If they had held up their hands and said they'd made an error, it could have been sorted over a cup of coffee, but they didn't, they thought it would all go away when I retired.”
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Mr Lambard, of Morley Road, Tiptree, claimed at the employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds heard he had fallen victim to inadequate procedures to test the fitness of firefighters who were on medication.
He said a ruling that firefighters were to undergo compulsory fitness assessments had led, through his condition being disregarded, to him being suspended from duty for eight months.
Mr Lambard told the tribunal panel that he had advised assessors that he was on medication for high blood pressure, but they insisted he performed the standard test, which he failed and was suspended immediately.
Shortly afterwards, and having worked to lose four kilos in weight, Mr Lambard was called to a second assessment session in Chelmsford, at which he again failed to meet the criteria.
Mr Lambard said he had been put in an impossible situation, being told he must meet the requirements of a test, which takes new recruits a year to prepare for when he had only that time before his retirement.
When Essex Fire Service refused to reinstate Mr Lambard or offer him an alternative test, he lodged an official grievance, which was also turned down.
Mr Lambard, who works as a carpenter, said although he had been overweight at the time, he had always passed previous fitness tests.
“I've always kept up my level of fitness - I should have been offered an alternative test,” he added last night.
Mr Lambard said he had had no option, but to resign from the fire service at the end of April and added the episode had soured his many happy memories of being a firefighter.
Essex Fire Service had strongly denied Mr Lambard's allegations, saying it believed it had met its responsibilities and treated him in a reasonable way, taking into account his health and standard of fitness.
Fitness adviser Paul Wilsher, who had originally assessed Mr Lambard at Tiptree fire station, told the tribunal he had adhered to all the correct procedures. “I was trying to give him the chance to pass the test,” he added.
Mr Wilsher said although Mr Lambard had not been offered an alternative test, he had not requested one either.
Announcing the unanimous decision of the three-member tribunal panel, chairman Brian Mitchell said Essex Fire Service had been wrong to remove Mr Lambard from operational duties when certified medically fit and only unable to achieve the necessary physical standard by the use of an inappropriate test.
Mr Mitchell added: “No real effort was made by the respondents to deal quickly with the applicant's underlying concerns. He was made to wait for responses at every stage.
“In our collective judgment, this case demonstrates how easy it is for a large organisation to lose touch with the concerns of an individual.”
The tribunal will resume in April for a further hearing when the level of compensation to be paid to Mr Lambard will be decided.
No-one from Essex Fire Service was available for comment last night.