Dog owner sacked over day off when pet died hits at Mail chiefs

A DOG owner who was sacked by the Royal Mail for taking a day off after the death of her pet has criticised her former bosses for failing to take account of her grief.

Mandy Frith said she doted on her Staffordshire bull terrier Buster and was so devastated after he died she had to take a day off work.

But the absence triggered a disciplinary process and the 49-year-old was eventually sacked for "unsatisfactory attendance" after taking just 23 days off in more than 11 years.

Miss Frith is now unemployed, has lost her two-bedroom terraced home because she could not keep up with the mortgage and has been prescribed anti-depressants by her doctor for stress and anxiety.

She also lost an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal after a panel decided Royal Mail had fairly sacked her under its disciplinary procedure even though her bosses admitted Miss Frith was a good worker.

Miss Frith, who is single and lives alone, told the Sheffield hearing: "I loved my job with Royal Mail and took a great pride in my work. My job was my salvation being the only thing I had left after losing my dog of 15-and-a-half years.

"I had never spent a night apart from him and it had always been just the two of us. I was thoroughly distraught over losing him and my job helped me through some very dark hours.

"Losing my job as well has completely devastated me. I have been made to feel totally devalued, humiliated and ashamed."

The former administration worker from Chesterfield, who helped maintain a database for 30,000 postal vans throughout the UK, claims Royal Mail did not treat her case on its merits and failed to take into account her feelings after Buster died.

She told the hearing she had been given a 10-year long service award, and had even paid 150 herself for acupuncture to cure a trapped nerve in her back so she could remain at work.

She also retrained to use a computer mouse with her left-hand after contracting repetitive strain injury at work.

The dog, which she had kept since he was a pup, died of old age on January 26, 2009 and Miss Frith said she still kept his ashes.

She said she became rundown after agonising over the decision to have Buster put to sleep and was incapacitated with period pain when she took a day off two months later.

But the absence sparked Royal Mail's strict disciplinary procedure because she had taken four absences in the previous 12 months.

Despite only averaging two days sickness a year she had to attend three disciplinary meetings and was eventually sacked on August 14, 2009.

She appealed unsuccessfully and the appeals manager even agreed she was a "hardworking employee." None of her absences had any effect on the company delivering the mail.

Speaking after the hearing, Miss Frith said: "If I could have continued working I could have got over my grief after the dog died. I have never had any complaints about my performance.

"I rarely went out. The job was my social life and I preferred staying at home with the dog."

Miss Frith said she believed a reorganisation within her department during which the company were seeking to reduce staff levels led to her sacking.

"It is shocking how I have been treated by Royal Mail. It is unbelievable," she added.

"I told them about the dog dying and they even sent me a condolence card but they just didn't take it into account during the disciplinary hearings and didn't even record it in the notes."

Royal Mail told the tribunal that absenteeism was a big problem for the company and it needed to maintain standards.

The Royal Mail declined to comment on the case after the hearing.