Librarian loses pay claim against Enfield Council

Council librarian claimed new job role he was given during Covid-19 lockdown warranted a pay rise, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Civic Centre

A librarian who claimed Enfield Council owed him almost £1,400 after his role changed during the Covid-19 pandemic has lost a court case against the local authority.

Conan Henry, who is 48 and lives in Hackney, claimed for loss of earnings after he was redeployed to work on the council’s telephone helpline during the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.

He alleged his new tasks involved responsibilities that warranted a higher pay grade, which the council denied.

Following a hearing at Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court on Monday, District Judge Pigram dismissed Conan’s claim.

Conan told the court that after being reassigned to work on the council’s pandemic helpline he was a “counsellor”, dealing with queries from people who had lost their jobs and were suicidal. He said his role was to “listen and be supportive to those callers”.

In addition, people would call the helpline asking for advice on housing benefits and council tax. He told the hearing he had filled out forms for people who lacked a computer or had poor computer skills.

Defence counsell David Gray-Jones said that instructions for the role were provided on 31st March – five days after the redeployment – but Conan said they only related to NHS enquiries and alleged the local authority had not made the same preparations for the pandemic as other local authorities.

The court heard that in August 2020, the council had carried out a retrospective evaluation of Conan’s helpline role and decided that it should not be classed as a higher-pay grade. Conan told the court he did not feel the analysis carried out during the evaluation was fair, and said that he should have been interviewed as part of the process to allow him to tell them what jobs he was doing.

Irene Papasavva, appearing as a witness for the council, said evaluations took into account factors such as supervision and management of people to assign a score to the role.

Customer services officer Julie Pocock, another witness, said there were “similarities” between libraries and customer services staff as they both involved “advising the customer and offering them guidance”.

Before announcing his verdict, Judge Pigram said it must have been apparent that a two-hour hearing was “inadequate” but neither the claimant nor the defendant had applied to extend the time.

He added: “There is absolutely nothing in the evidence I have heard that satisfies me that the claimant has discharged the burden upon him that shows there has been a wrong evaluation of the job.”

Judge Pigram said that although it seemed the helpline job was “clearly different” from the work he had done before, it did not mean that he had a legal right to be paid at a higher grade.

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