Gymnastics Coach Unfairly Sacked After Asking For Payslips and Correct Employment Contract Secures £56K Payout

In Elena Bolotina v Friendship Society Limited, an employment tribunal ruled a gymnastics coach was unfairly sacked and awarded her over £56,000. The tribunal heard how the Belarusian gymnast was shown the door shortly after requesting employment documents due to wage disparities. In this article, we unpick what happened and outline the judgment made.

If you believe you have been unfairly dismissed, contact Redmans Solicitors now. With years of experience, we are specialists in the employment law sector and could provide expert guidance. Following a quick chat, we can uncover your eligibility to claim compensation and advise on your possible next steps.

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The Facts in Elena Bolotina v Friendship Society Limited

Unfairly Sacked Coach’s Commencement

Elena Bolotina (“The Claimant”) began working as a gymnastics coach for Friendship Society Limited (“The Respondent”) on 14 December 2018. This came after she’d previously volunteered for the gymnastic group before securing a tier 2 sportsperson’s visa. The visa, secured through sponsorship from British Gymnastics, enabled her to acquire a three-year fixed-term contract, offering £31,200 annually.

Claimant’s Wage Woes

In September 2019, the claimant sought her written contract due to concerns of being underpaid. She received it in early October and discovered that her start date was inaccurately listed as 1 February 2019. Upon finding this, she told Galina Clark, the respondent’s managing director, who reassured her and stated there was “no need to worry.”

However, Ms Clark believed the claimant was a volunteer from December 2018 until 1 February 2019. Therefore, she claimed the gymnastics coach was ineligible for remuneration during this time and was only entitled to specific expenses. 

Furthermore, she asserted that as per the contract, the claimant was entitled to £31,200 annually based on a 40-hour week, or £15 per hour pro rata. Yet the claimant alleged, “there had been no discussion or agreement about her being paid on a pro-rata basis”.

When the tribunal obtained most of the claimant’s payslips, it became clear she was only being paid the latter. Following estimations, they determined she’d only received the equivalent of £18,227.36 annually, significantly less than the £31,200 stated, showing why she chased Ms Clark on 24 October to address the wage disparity.

Trouble Over Timetabling 

Throughout this time, the pair’s work relationship began to decline. Ms Clark explained how the claimant’s “previous eager and cooperative attitude” allegedly disappeared upon beginning her contract. The respondent provided an example, claiming the gymnastics coach shouted “aggressively at a student in Russian”, causing them to cry. Moreover, in a meeting dated 23 September, Ms Clark alleged she was “using force to overstretch gymnasts”.

Then, on 18 October, the claimant travelled to Townley Grammar School, where she was supposed to teach that evening. Unfortunately, the venue had changed to the Canada Water Docklands Settlement, meaning the session was cancelled. Ms Clark claimed she’d altered this the day before, but the claimant asserted no changes had been made when she checked the rota at lunch that day.

Gymnastics Coach Unfairly Sacked

Soon after, on 24 October, the claimant emailed Ms Clark, voicing regret for any misunderstanding and urging adherence to UK labour laws moving forward. She explained how she’d been legally working since 14 December 2018 and could not fathom the reason for her wage shortages. As a result, she requested Ms Clark to clarify the position.

However, the claimant instead received a written warning for the missed session that same day. This left her “flabbergasted”, as she believed the venue change was last minute and the fault of the respondent.

During November, the claimant persisted in addressing the errors regarding her start date. This led to the respondent convening a meeting on 28 November. There, it was alleged that the claimant had publicly criticised coaches and encouraged members to leave. Consequently, they decided that she would be immediately dismissed for serious misconduct.

The claimant learned this on 1 December, meaning her sponsorship was withdrawn, and she had to return to Belarus. Yet the gymnastics coach denied all allegations and believed she had been unfairly sacked. Subsequently, she began employment tribunal proceedings, claiming unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

Following the proceedings, the employment tribunal ruled that the claimant had commenced her employment on 14 December 2018. This was because Ms Clarke had failed to mention to the gymnastics coach that she would begin as a volunteer. They also reasoned that she was allocated shifts on a rota where no other volunteers were present.

Regarding her salary, the tribunal held she was entitled to the figure stated in her endorsement, which was £31,200. Since discussions concerning salary were absent prior to her employment beginning, they determined this was the amount payable.

The tribunal then discussed the claims of misconduct. Here, they found the respondent’s evidence didn’t support their allegations of her undermining them via public criticisms. Furthermore, regarding the claimant shouting at a child in Russian, the tribunal stated that whilst this may be “poor coaching”, without knowing the content, it’s unclear what upset the child.

The tribunal concluded, stating the principal reason for the claimant’s dismissal wasn’t her conduct but her requests for documentation. Specifically, her employment contract and payslips for December 2018 and January 2019. As such, they ruled she had been unfairly sacked and awarded her £56,202.

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