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Contract wrongfully withdrawn, court finds

Contract checking

A consultant whose contract was cancelled days before starting his new job has thanked the BMA for its support, after a court ruled he was wrongfully dismissed.

Consultant ophthalmologist Amar Alwitry has spoken of his relief following a judgment by the royal court of Jersey, which found that a decision taken to cancel his offer of employment had been a breach of contract.

The ruling related to a job offer at Jersey General Hospital given to Mr Alwitry in 2012, which was then rescinded shortly before he was due to take up his post by the island’s SEB (States Employment Board).

In finding in favour of Mr Alwitry (pictured), who was supported in his legal challenge by the BMA, a decision will now be taken on the financial damages to which he is entitled.

Mr Alwitry successfully applied for a consultant post in Jersey in August 2012. After agreeing with his prospective employer that he would begin the role part-time in December that year, before shifting to full-time in February 2013, Mr Alwitry resigned from his existing job in Derby.

 

Programmed activities

In September 2012, Mr Alwitry raised concerns with his new employer about the 11.5 programmed activities in his job plan, which exceeded the 10 stipulated by his contract.

Mr Alwitry was warned by his employer that making too many demands at that stage in his appointment ‘is unlikely to bode well for your future relationships in the organisation’.

Then in November 2012, Mr Alwitry was notified that, following referral to the SEB, the decision had been taken to withdraw his offer of employment on the basis that Mr Alwitry's behaviour had undermined their trust in him.

He took legal action based on wrongful dismissal and breach of contract, with his case brought before Jersey’s royal court in September last year.

Mr Alwitry’s lawyer Steven Chiddicks said that the ruling set an important precedent by demonstrating that the ‘language of employment contracts can prevent an employer from dismissing an employee without reason and render doing so a breach of contract’.

 

Life-shattering

Mr Alwitry, who was brought up in Jersey, said that the protracted dispute over his employment had had a shattering effect on his career and personal life, and that he hoped a decision on the amount of damages he would receive could be reached in a ‘collaborative manner’.

He added that, despite the court ruling in his favour, he remained saddened by the fact that he had lost the opportunity to practise in Jersey.

Mr Alwitry, who has won national awards for his work, said: ‘The last six years of my life have been some of the toughest for my family and me. My dreams of returning to the island were taken away from me and my career was left in tatters.

‘It would have been an honour to come home and work to protect and preserve the eyesight of the people of the island.

‘I am very grateful to the BMA for its continued support and funding, without which I might otherwise have been unable to pursue matters to this point.

‘I cannot speak for the BMA, but its involvement and support speaks volumes as to its concerns about the actions of the SEB in this case and the potential ramifications for the employment rights of all doctors on the island.’

A spokesperson for the SEB said it would be lodging an appeal against the court’s decision that Mr Alwitry was entitled to uncapped damages.

 

Job security

Viv Du-Feu (pictured below), director of legal services at the BMA, said: 'We are pleased that, with the support and backing of the BMA, Mr Alwitry has won this important case.

'The unfairness of the situation whereby Mr Alwitry had made plans to move himself and his family hundreds of miles away, only to have his contract terminated before he even started, is clear and we are glad that the court has reflected this and found the hospital to be in the wrong.

'Doctors must be confident in the security that a signed contract offers, and therefore this is an important case for those working, not just in Jersey, but across the UK.

'The BMA continues to support, and negotiate on behalf of, all doctors to ensure their rights are protected.'
 

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