Somerset huntsman loses unfair dismissal case
A huntsman who claimed the Hunt Master’s foul-mouthed language in the hunting field and elsewhere was a breach of contract lost his claim for constructive dismissal yesterday.
Mark Parsons, kennel huntsman and first whipper-in with Mendip Farmers’ Hunt told an employment tribunal of the tense relationship between himself and hunt Master Richard Standing.
On one occasion Mr Standing was so frustrated by Mr Parsons’ alleged heavy-handed driving of the hunt’s pick-up truck that he took hold of Mr Parsons by his sleeveless gilet coat and shook him so hard it was ripped to show him what his own experience as a passenger had felt like.
On another occasion when a hound walked over the white line marking the centre of the road as they exercised hounds together Mr Standing allegedly said: “Shall I hit the hound or you?”
But employment tribunal Judge Owen, sitting alone at the tribunal in Bristol, found that none of Mr Standing’s actions amounted to a breach of trust or confidence.
Mr Parsons brought his claim against Mr Standing and Hunt chairman Peter Williams, representing the Mendip Hunt Committee and against Leicester (Fallen Stock Ltd).
While Judge Owen found Mr Standing’s actions in shaking Mr Parsons: “One of the most unsatisfactory bits of behaviour by the respondent” he said he did not believe the coat was ripped as badly as Mr Parsons claimed, and the incident did not feature in a letter of resignation which MrParsons wrote after another confrontation in the kennel yard. Judge Jones said he believed Mr Standing’s remark: “Shall I hit the hound or you?” was merely a throwaway remark by a Master concerned for the safety of the pack and he said he did not believe Mr Parsons was distressed or insulted by bad language.
Mr Parsons, who had 12 years’ experience as a huntsman in Scotland and England began working as huntsman to the 81-year-old Mendip hunt on May 1 last year. But within days there were tensions. He told Mr Standing that he would not renew what was in practice a one-year contract.
At the end of October
Mr Standing criticised Mr Parsons over his care of a hound named Peewit which was found to have gnawed a pad from an infected paw.
The next day after speaking to his wife Mr Parsons told Mr Standing he would be happy to leave as soon as a replacement was found. He told Mr Standing: “That with Peewit has really got to me. I don’t sleep. I am not doing my job and I don’t know why.”
The hunt recruited a replacement who was due to start on December 6. But Mr Parsons resigned on November 24 after Mr Standing swore at him in an angry exchange over a missing hound.
Mr Jones said Mr Parsons’ resignation was: “At least partially motivated” by the way he was doing his job.