Financial Ombudsman Service  

Fos found guilty of adjudicator's unfair dismissal

Fos found guilty of adjudicator's unfair dismissal

An employment tribunal has ruled against the Financial Ombudsman Service after one of its adjudicators took action for unfair dismissal, in a case which also reveals the low pay of Fos claim decision makers.

Olivier Guerindon had been an adjudicator at the Fos for nearly a decade, initially in the investment and pensions division.

But in 2015, following a restructure, all adjudicators were offered the opportunity to apply for a role as an investigator or move to the mass claims department, which handles issues generating large volumes of complaints, such as payment protection insurance.

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Mr Guerindon did not apply for the investigator role, which involves a combination of adjudication, administrative work and customer contact, because he felt it "did not suit his skills and experience" and so was moved into the mass claims department.

But he eventually resigned and took the Fos to an employment tribunal, claiming the move amounted to a "loss of status" and was a "de facto demotion".

Employment judge Corinna Ferguson agreed.

She said: "It is self-evident that mass claims work is intended to be processed much more quickly than other work.

"That is the whole point of having a dedicated department for such cases – to maximise efficiency and ensure that multiple cases involving the same or very similar issues can be disposed of without unnecessary duplication of work.

"It is inevitable that the intellectual input of adjudicators in that area will be considerably lower than in general casework.

"This is consistent with the historical lack of case ownership and the fact that adjudicators in mass claims have a wider range of duties, including receiving calls from members of the public.

"It is very significant that there was no evidence of any adjudicators having been transferred from general casework to mass claims prior to the 2017 reorganisation, despite the repeated assertion of the respondents’ witnesses that flexibility was an essential aspect of the adjudicator role.

"I find that, in requiring the claimant to move to mass claims against his will, the respondent conducted itself in a manner calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of confidence and trust between it and the claimant."

Mr Guerindon made a claim for £8,096 for unfair dismissal and Judge Ferguson gave the Fos 21 days to either contest this sum or agree to pay it.

Among the Fos's claims was that Mr Guerindon was always likely to resign because he had been offered a part-time job based in Paris paying €30,000 compared to the £16,300 pro-rata which a grade three adjudicator - the highest rank for that role - is paid.

But Mr Guerindon said he could have done both jobs because he was not required to be physically present in Paris.

The Fos also claimed it was entitled to revise Mr Guerindon's job description under the terms of his contract.

One of the differences between the work of adjudicators in general casework and those in mass claims is that the former do not act as the first point of contact for members of the public.