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HomeUKWheelchair tennis boss sacked for rejecting Covid hit wins £27,000 payout

Wheelchair tennis boss sacked for rejecting Covid hit wins £27,000 payout


A wheelchair tennis executive was fired after she refused to get a Covid shot despite the government ending nearly all restrictions at the time, a court has heard.

Sarah Synan sued the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after it placed “particularly severe restrictions” against her when she breached its Covid “hard line” policy by refusing to take a shot.

Prior to the US Masters in October 2021, the ITF enforced a strict policy that employees must be double vaccinated to travel, although there were no requirements to be vaccinated to enter the country at that time.

Miss Synan was unable to go to the tournament and faced other strict restrictions, which meant she was also unable to attend the 2021 Christmas party.

Fired after ‘living with Covid’ plan started

Then, on 22 February 2022, the day after the Government announced the end of the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid test, Miss Synan was sacked from her £37,500 position as ‘team leader’ of wheelchair tennis

She successfully sued the ITF for wrongful dismissal and won £27,465 in compensation, after the court ruled that it would have been obvious to the federation that the Covid-19 difficulties were clearing up and that sacking her was unreasonable.

At the hearing in Croydon, south London, Miss Synan was said to have organized and attended international competitions such as the Paralympics and the US Masters.

Ms Synan said she was “anxious” about getting vaccinated and thought “the only downside was a restriction on her travel.” She had Covid in March 2020 and a mild episode in 2021.

‘Hard line on unvaccinated people’

Internal emails from Alistair Williams, the ITF director of wheelchair tennis, and Jane O’Sullivan, its human resources director, showed them discussing how to deal with unvaccinated employees like Miss Synan.

Ms O’Sullivan told her: “This is serious stuff and I think we need to take a hard line on ‘unvaccinated’ people.”

She told the court that the initiative “came from the chairman himself”, David Haggerty, adding that he “felt it was no longer acceptable for any ITF member to represent them at an international event if they had not been vaccinated”.

Miss Synan was told in November 2021 that she had to provide negative lateral flow tests every time she was in the office, had to get approval for holidays abroad, and had to discuss with her manager “how to manage her attendance to staff meetings or social gatherings. .

Williams fired Miss Synan in February 2022, saying she “put visitors at risk.”

Rules at odds with government advice

Concluding that she had been unfairly dismissed, labor judge Eoin Fowell said they were “particularly severe restrictions” as they were at odds with government advice.

He said: “The national and international Covid situation was clearly improving at the time of Miss Synan’s dismissal. It has been over a year since the last lockdown in the UK and, as already underlined, the Government had announced an end to all restrictions.

“Certainly, by the time of the appeal hearing, they could no longer have any doubt that it was just a matter of time. The restrictions surrounding the omicron variant had been lifted. Equity requires that all of that has been considered.

“The ITF should have at least applied their minds to the likely duration of the restrictions.”

Judge Fowell said that of the remaining international events for the ITF, an “obvious alternative” would have been to rearrange the plans so that Miss Synan’s colleagues could go in her place, and that they were “ready and willing to do so”.

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