Village Bakery metal girder

Source: Jones Village Bakery

A twisted metal girder salvaged from the 2019 fire that destroyed Jones Village Bakery’s flagship site is displayed in front of its new factory in Wrexham.

A former Jones Village Bakery worker, who is registered blind, is seeking compensation of more than £112k after an employment tribunal ruled that he had not been given reasonable adjustments for his disability.

Ian Stanley was dismissed six weeks into a three-month probation period, working as a night shift operator at the company’s 45,000 sq ft site in Coedpoeth. Around 170 staff members work at this factory, with a further 780 employed across Jones Village Bakery’s three other sites in Wrexham.

Stanley had previously worked for 18 years as a packer at another factory. In 2010, he was diagnosed with Bardet Biedl Syndrome, an inherited genetic condition which causes a gradual deterioration in his sight.

Despite his vision now being severely impaired, Stanley said he had passed a two-hour ‘hands on’ assessment at the bakery and offered employment, which commenced on 17 July 2023. His role of night shift operator included tasks such as separating bread, collecting bread, and placing it in trays.

Jones Village Bakery claimed it had terminated Stanley’s employment after having concerns for his health and safety and wellbeing, and for that of his colleagues. It also cited the need to maintain efficient production to meet customer demand and save costs on waste and/or damage to equipment.

The company gave evidence that Stanley had been seen crashing bread racks into machinery and had ‘near misses’ with other staff, while making lots of mistakes such as dropping bread trays, damaging bread, and loading incorrect volumes onto racks. His slow pace of work had resulted in an accumulation of items at the dispatch area, claimed the bakery.

Stanley was also seen to be having difficulty focussing on the thermometer gauge when testing the temperature of bread, as well as clocking on.

“We accept that in principle the aims relied on were capable of being legitimate aims, we were only persuaded that the first, that of efficient production, was in the respondent’s mind when dismissing the claimant,” stated tribunal judge Rhian Brace in the reserved judgment.

‘Unfavourable treatment’

The tribunal, heard over three days at the Mold Justice Centre from 7 to 9 May 2024, said that Stanley should have been given a longer probation period. This would have allowed him to adjust to the new role and factory layout so that he could reach the same standard required from other employees.

Stanley should have also been provided a support worker and high-viz jacket by Jones Village Bakery, with all colleagues properly informed of his sight impairment, added the judgment.

The panel had not been persuaded by evidence from Jones Village Bakery that it would have been cost prohibitive to employ someone in this support role, even on a short-term basis. “It may still be cost-effective in overall terms – for example, compared with the costs of slowing down the production and paying someone to take on half of the Claimant’s workload, which the Respondent appears to have been undertaking, and/or recruiting and training a new member of staff,” said the judge.

In a unanimous judgment, the tribunal upheld Stanley’s complaint of ‘unfavourable treatment of being dismissed because of something arising in consequence of disability’. A further one-day hearing will determine the final settlement.

Stanley is claiming a total of £112,107.77, including £33.404 for past and future losses, £35k for injury to feelings, and a 25% uplift for failure to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievance. The claim also includes an amount for aggravated damages in relation to the manner in which Jones Village Bakery has conducted the litigation and for forging Stanley’s signature of the probation review form.

Jones Village Bakery was contacted for comment.

Another recent employment tribunal saw Derby-based doughnut specialist Project D ordered to pay over £31k to a former worker that had been subjected to “unlawful discrimination” in pursuing a sexual harassment complaint.