As you'd imagine, we're deeply disappointed that a tribunal found in favour of our former teammate, Aimee Sanderson.
We were shocked that Aimee initiated the tribunal in the first place. When we received the paperwork from her it was the first time we had seen a tribunal claim. We didn't feel it had any merit, and during the tribunal hearing, six members of our team and one of Aimee's own clients gave statements or evidence to say that. Our team didn’t feel they had any choice but to dismiss her given her performance in her role.
We’re obviously disappointed too that Aimee sought so much publicity and took her story to the press. She has said she has wanted to “teach us a lesson” which we feel is unfair, because whilst we have been astonished by the outcome, we nevertheless accepted it gracefully.
As an agency we're proud of our ethos of doing the right thing and of treating our people well, so this case has had a profound effect upon us and our team. We don't feel we had a proper opportunity to have our say in the hearing or the press and don’t feel the process has been balanced.
Aimee presented to the tribunal that Bespoke had sought financial benefit by dismissing her but the tribunal found in our favour on that point. They found that we had always intended to pay her full 9-months maternity pay whether she was dismissed or not, and we did so. We stood to make no financial benefit by dismissing Aimee.
And yet, despite this, they went on to conclude that Aimee was dismissed for some reason outside of the issues with her performance of her duties, even though they agreed there were genuine concerns about her performance.
We recognise that a tribunal can only act on the evidence in front of it, and in hindsight we would have liked to have provided much more evidence. We realise now we were naive and complacent about the tribunal process, whilst Aimee had devoted very significant time and energy to preparing for it.
We take pride at Bespoke at giving people chances. There are countless people we have hired into roles like Aimee's who have gone on to grow their status, salaries and careers, way beyond the norm, and remain with us for many years. We have many people who have started or grown lovely families whilst with us and who have felt supported by us as they have done so.
We're humbled by the way our team approached this issue - even some of our newer teammates. And clients and contacts too, who offered their support. We even heard from several competitors, who shared their own frustrations with us about employment tribunal claims, and the emotional toll of having to fight them.
There is real frustration from many small businesses that since the abolition of fees to bring a case to the employment tribunal there's been such a dramatic increase in claims. Of course, employees should be protected from unfair treatment but that protection needs to run both ways, particularly where small and independently-run business are involved. Having been through the process we don’t feel parties are on an equal footing, at least where small businesses are involved.
Of course, we accept the final decision of the tribunal and move on. We're grateful to be able to focus fully on supporting our current team as they grow their careers and families. One remarkable irony in this case is that one of the people Aimee took issue with had been promoted by us whilst on maternity leave. Our caring and supportive approach over two-decades is not changed by this one case and if anything, our approach has only become even more caring and supportive towards our teammates as a result of it.
I was involved in the dismissal and was shocked by the tribunal outcome. As a member of the management team, I saw the care and consideration that went into every decision during Aimee's suspension and dismissal. Bespoke's ethos is all about supporting its staff and the outcome here doesn't reflect the reality at all."
I've been leading Bespoke day-to-day for almost 18 months, moving here after 11 years in a senior role at an agency in Cumbria. I didn't get to meet Aimee but have got to understand the team and culture and Bespoke very well. I've found it to be one of openness, trust and fairness and totally at odds with the tribunal outcome."
Being taken through this tribunal process was difficult and upsetting for everyone not least because we couldn't make sense of the allegations Aimee had made. I have worked at Bespoke for over 3 years and have felt completely supported by Steve and the entire team. It could not be a more honest and fair place to work so the tribunal decision just didn't make sense to us."
The tribunal was trying for me and my family and we were disappointed by the decision. For the 5 years I have worked at Bespoke I have seen the management team be nothing other than supportive and family-friendly with every member of staff. They helped me greatly in my maternity leave, even promoting me to a senior position whilst I was on leave. My children (and pets!) are always welcome visitors at the office."
I've been pleased that so many of our staff and clients wanted to speak out about this case both at the tribunal and since. We've built Bespoke over 18 years on foundations of giving people opportunities and supporting them to grow their careers and families. We're happy to accept the decision as final however so that we can maintain full focus on supporting our current team and their families."