Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Council to appeal £4.6m compensation claim from officer who supported Grenfell victims

A council has announced it will appeal what it has called a “vastly excessive” £4.6million pay out that was granted to a worker who suffered from PTSD after supporting Grenfell fire victims.

Hammersmith and Fulham council was ordered to pay compensation and damages to Rachael Wright-Turner, 52, for disability discrimination and harassment after she was sacked from her role as director of public service reform.

The ruling is believed to be the highest-ever such award against a public body and comes after the employment tribunal found senior officers in the Labour-run authority lied in evidence.

Ms Wright-Turner developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while working as a humanitarian assistance lead at Kensington and Chelsea council, supporting bereaved families following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 – which killed 72 people. 

She then moved to Hammersmith and Fulham and began work at the local authority.

In May 2018, Ms Wright-Turner was signed off on sick leave after a meeting with superiors at a pub triggered her PTSD. She had a panic attack and was taken to hospital.

Water being sprayed on Grenfell Tower after the fire in 2017 (Picture: PA)

The tribunal heard senior council officers made the untrue claim that she had been drunk before being taken to hospital.

She was dismissed while on sick leave without a chance to discuss or challenge the decision. 

A spokesman from Hammersmith and Fulham council said: “We are very sorry for the ordeal suffered by Ms Wright-Turner, who joined Hammersmith and Fulham council in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy in 2017.

“However, we have always considered Ms Wright-Turner’s claim for compensation to be vastly excessive, disputed and highly unprecedented.

“While we are grateful to the tribunal panel for dismissing many of the exceptional claims that her lawyers have made, we still believe this award is excessive and will be looking to appeal.

Research from the Guardian revealed that two-thirds of the adults who survived or were affected by the Grenfell fire have shown signs that they need treatment for PTSD.

The report also revealed there was “significant risk” of secondary trauma. 

Pictured top: The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 – 72 people were killed in the blaze (Picture: PA)

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