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Court orders Home Office to re-employ sacked interpreters

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In a highly unusual move an employment tribunal has ordered that two Home Office interpreters who had previously been sacked should be given new jobs.

Marti Khan and Odette King were dismissed after writing to then Home Secretary Charles Clarke to complain that they had been employed for 15 years to ‘do nothing’.

The case saw Judge McMullen brand the Home Office as ‘one of Britain’s least impressive managements’ and left the department facing a multi-million pound payout.

But the two interpreters were anxious to be re-employed – even though the judge had said: “Sophisticated employment procedures applicable to the two cases, collectively consulted on and agreed over the years, have been left in wreckage by the mismanagement over 15 years of no less than 101 HR professionals and managers, some disingenuous and blind to discrimination.”

The Home Office had argued that relations between employer and the two employees had broken down to such an extent that the two women should only receive compensation. But the tribunal ordered that both women be re-engaged, together with compensation orders of £75,000 each.

Under the Employment Rights Act, tribunals are required to first consider making a reinstatement order. If it is not practicable to reinstate the person in the job they previously did, then the tribunal must consider a re-engagement order. This requires re-employment but only in a comparable role.

A tribunal must also consider whether the employer has recruited a permanent employee to replace the complainant before making a reinstatement or re-engagement order.

Although compensation is the final order a tribunal has to consider, in practice it is the most common because of the breakdown in relationships that a claim produces.

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