Tragic end for Falkirk mum Louise

Louise Kirkpatrick with twins Callum and Rachel
Louise Kirkpatrick with twins Callum and Rachel

A brave mum spent her last days trying to get the cash she was due from her ex-employer.

Louise Kirkpatrick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2011 and died 14 months later.

But right up until her death in Strathcarron Hospice on April 15, the mother-of-two was battling to get ex-boss Steven Rooney of ABC Events to hand over the £9352 awarded by an employment tribunal.

Louise, who was just 44 when she died, won her unfair dismissal case after being sacked from the Middlefield-based firm when she revealed that she needed six months of chemotherapy.

She claimed her former boss had breached new equality discrimination legislation which gives cancer sufferers rights.

Mr Rooney failed to turn up for either of last summer’s hearings.

This week Louise’s fiancé, Allan Douglas (43), said her last weeks were spent worrying about money and the future for her twins, Callum and Rachel (17).

He said: “In her last few months she was absolutely skint. I want people to know what Steven Rooney did but also how the employment tribunal system works. You are awarded this money but then it can’t be enforced. It’s wrong.

“Louise did get in touch with lawyers and sheriff’s officers but was told it would take time and money to pursue, neither of which she had.”

Allan, an employment development officer from High Valleyfield, Fife, said that despite undergoing an operation and months of gruelling treatment, Louise, who lived in Carron, was still determined to raise money for cancer charities.

He added: “She organised an event last October in Falkirk Rugby Club on behalf of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund which raised over £3700. She hoped to hold another one this year and that’s the type of person she was, always thinking of others.”

Last August she spoke to The Falkirk Herald to highlight her condition and said: “I think people need to be more aware of this cancer because the symptoms are vague, and there is not a lot of funding for research into pancreatic cancer.”

Her family have now vowed to continue raising money for the charity she supported.

Louise had been employed for over two years as an events organiser with the company which supplies inflatables, as well as arranging corporate entertainment.

It was while she was getting help from Macmillan Cancer Support teams to fill in benefit forms that she was encouraged to take her case to a tribunal.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must not discriminate against a worker with cancer.

After unsuccessful attempts to get Mr Rooney to pay up, Louise even threatened to contact his clients, including Hamilton Racecourse and Gleneagles Hotel, making allegations about the firm.

He was forced to obtain an order at Falkirk Sheriff Court last November banning her from such action.

Mr Rooney admitted that he should have attended the hearings but this week maintained that Louise had quit her job to spend more time with her family after being told her cancer was terminal.

He said: “I made a mistake not defending the claims she made. But the simple fact is she was not dismissed. I thought it would be expensive to defend and we are just a small company, but now wished I had done.

“She definitely tried to blackmail me and sent an e-mail that she was going to send to my clients. I had to take out an injunction against her and hadn’t heard anything from her since.

“This has been a horrendous time. I realise now that I should have defended the case and explained she wasn’t sacked but she left.”

Statistics from the Citizens Advice Bureau show that one in 10 people receiving awards from an Employment Tribunal never get the money.

It has called for new legal powers for tribunals to enforce awards.

A report on its website states: “There appears to us to be no good reason – financial or otherwise – why the Government should not act now to ensure that there is ‘no hiding place for employers who are not prepared to obey the law’, and that the Employment Tribunal system does not provide empty justice to exploited vulnerable workers.”