Former Northampton salon receptionist shares how she won grueling employment tribunal after unfair sacking

The Loubsers: Malcolm, Jack, George and Charlotte
The Loubsers: Malcolm, Jack, George and Charlotte

Any employees wrongfully fired can take hope from a woman who fought an unfair dismissal from her Northampton job through the notoriously stressful employment tribunal process without any legal help - and won.

Having spent around eight weeks in agony in the early stages of her second pregnancy, Charlotte Loubser was looking forward to going back to her part-time job as a receptionist at a Northampton hair salon in January 2018.

Charlotte Loubser

Charlotte Loubser

But half an hour before she was due to start at CC hair salon in Weston Favell Shopping Centre, the then 29-year-old was called by her manager to say she was no longer needed due to her 'non-attendance'.

"I was in shock," she told the Chronicle & Echo, "I didn't really respond but I rang my husband and he was really angry."

Charlotte said she originally did not want to take it any further as the combination of her high-risk pregnancy and being fired was getting too much for her.

She was also working as a fitness instructor her home in Little Houghton but stopped for 18 months when she was signed off from work during the pregnancy.

But with the baby on the way, Charlotte being owed her final wage slip and becoming more and more sick, her husband Malcolm decided to step in and fight the case.

"It was a matter of principle for me, not so much about the money but to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else," Malcolm, a 35-year-old accountant, said.

Malcolm, whose only legal experience was a module in company law from his accountancy degree at university, spent all of his free time collecting the right documents, swotting up on the jargon and learning about previous cases.

The Loubsers tried on multiple times to reach out to the salon owner, William Diggins, both privately and through intermediary service Acas, were unanswered for months.

"It's the only thing we spoke about and it just doesn't go away," Malcolm said. "When you finally do forget about it for a moment, then a court letter comes and it's all you speak about again.

"The amount of work and effort I put in as huge as it was a lot more work than I expected. The stress on Charlotte was massive too."

The lack of communication meant the couple were given a certificate to go an employment tribunal - again no response.

Mr Diggins did not show up to the preliminary hearing in September 2018, which meant he got another 30 days to respond - 32 days later, he asked for more time.

"The worst bit was just not hearing from him, if he had just paid my wages then I probably would have just left it but because he never replied, it makes you more and more determined to fight," Charlotte said.

"Even just an explanation of what happened or a 'sorry' would've softened the blow a bit but I felt he couldn't care less about me and my family."

On the morning of the tribunal, the salon boss provided half of the documents Malcolm had requested - he said the rest was irrelevant, but the court disagreed so he had another day to get the rest.

A two-day hearing against the umbrella company Uncle Willys Hairshop Ltd, the name of the salon's sister barbershop, finally got underway in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, in January 2019 - a year after Charlotte was sacked.

During the tribunal, Charlotte said Mr Diggins gave so many different reasons why she was fired that she lost count.

To the couple's delight, the court found in their favour and awarded Charlotte £2,000 in unpaid wages and £15,000 compensation due to Mr Diggins' lack of cooperation.

Charlotte said: "It was a very good feeling as sometimes you question yourself, I don't know why, but when we finally won, it was such a relief."

She eventually got her wages, but the couple is unlikely to ever see the 'life-changing' £15,000 because Mr Diggins liquidated the limited company that owned the salon and sold it to a new one, which he also owns, and changed the name to CC Hair Salon.

Ultimately the family is just pleased it is all over and they can get on with their lives - their son George was born in July 2018, while Charlotte also has a nine-year-old son called Jack.

Charlotte said she is glad her belief that she was unfairly dismissed was vindicated and hopes to encourage anyone else in a similar situation.

"You need to take it seriously, it's not an easy thing at all but it's definitely something you can do as we have done it but you shouldn't take it lightly," she said.

"I hope he [Mr Diggins] will never do it again or to anyone else and put someone else in that place."

A spokesman for Mr Diggins said: "Charlotte worked for Uncle Willy's Hairshop Ltd at the adjoining salon CC for 16 weeks as a part-time receptionist, during that time she was unfortunately off sick for nine weeks due to complications relating to her pregnancy. Her absence highlighted to the company that there was a need for a full-time receptionist.

"The tribunal awarded her £15,000 for injury to her feelings due to the fact she was not offered the full-time position. She was also offered over £2,000 for loss of wages and future loss of wages. The latter was paid by William Diggins personally.

"The company tried to arrange a reasonable payment plan for the remainder but Charlotte declined putting the company in a serious financial position. Following professional advice and with limited assets the company went into liquidation.

"The assets of the company after an independent valuation were purchased by CC Hair Salon Ltd.

"William Diggins apologises for the distress caused during this very trying time for all parties and he hopes that Charlotte and her family will go on to be very successful in her business as a personal trainer”.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article said Charlotte worked at CC's and she worked as a personal trainer when she was fired. The name of the salon has been changed to CC, the name of the umbrella company, Uncle Willy's Hairshop Ltd, involved in the tribunal has been added and Charlotte's work as a PT has been amended to explain how she had stopped all work when she was signed off by the doctor during her pregnancy and did not conduct another PT session for 18 months.