Norfolk social worker loses race discrimination case

Employment tribunal fees are to be scrapped following a Supreme Court ruling. Picture: Nick Ansell/P

County Council did not racially discriminate social worker, judge rules. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A social worker who accused Norfolk County Council of racial discrimination will have to pay out thousands of pounds after her claims were dismissed by an employment judge.  

Mapule Mdlalose started working for NCC as a social worker in January 2018 and resigned eight months later after a host of concerns about her conduct.

After losing a case brought before the employment tribunal in 2020, Ms Mdlalose called for a reconsideration, which was heard in April 2021. 

In his judgement, Employment Judge Robin Postle set out a series of issues during her employment, including three serious incidents in the space of a month. 

Issues ranged from serious to minor, including failing to follow up on an urgently needed home placement, almost divulging foster placement information for a child who needed to be protected from risks posed by the birth family, and not being a team player.

County Hall in Norwich

Mapule Mdlalose worked as a social worker for Norfolk County Council in 2018 - Credit: Archant Norfolk

In the final and most serious incident, Mdlalose failed to take immediate action after hearing a foster child had allegedly sexually assaulted the three-year-old daughter of their carer.

Instead of taking immediate action, Ms Mdlalose went on a client visit and only raised it with a manager five hours later.

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The judge said: “This was an extremely serious incident which clearly showed a lack of insight by the claimant.” 

Her manager decided to remove her case load until a meeting in September to discuss a way forward, but Mdlalose resigned, raising a grievance. 

The judge said: “The claimant made no allegations of any race discrimination, far from it. The claimant alleged she did not have adequate support and was bullied. 

“There was a full investigation and an outcome. Race discrimination is only raised in the grievance interview investigation.” 

A grievance officer found no evidence of Mdlalose being treated differently due to race or ethnicity, calling the line manager’s responses “proportionate” to poor performance that could have put children at risk. 

Judge Postle dismissed 16 allegations against the council, and said the claim of racial discrimination was "simply not made out”. 

Following the reconsideration in April, Judge Postle awarded the council costs of £5,000. 

A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said: “We are pleased that this employment tribunal has upheld the original decision in favour of Norfolk County Council.  

“We remain committed to equality and diversity.”