Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Sugar: I will take on claim culture

Lord Sugar with Apprentice winner Stella English

Lord Sugar has vowed to take on claim culture as a "personal crusade" after former winner of The Apprentice Stella English lost her constructive dismissal case against him.

Ms English, 34, sued the Labour peer after resigning from the £100,000-a-year job that was her prize for winning series six of the BBC One show in 2010. She told the East London Tribunal Service last month that she was treated like an "overpaid lackey". But in a written judgement, tribunal judge John Warren said: "This was a claim which should never have been brought."

Lord Sugar told the Press Association that the case was "tantamount to blackmail". He said: "She picked the wrong person here and I do hope that, apart from it being a victory for me, that other business people will start to realise they shouldn't succumb to this type of blackmail and they should fight it."

"High-profile victims" like himself are at risk of further claims, he added, urging them to see the cases through rather than settle out of court, even though "it may not seem to make commercial sense".

Lord Sugar said he was shocked to learn of Ms English's action and described it as an "outrageous claim", adding "we looked after her like a baby when she worked for us". The Labour peer said he would speak to colleagues in the House of Lords when parliament sits again.

He said: "I'm going to take it on as a personal crusade. The most important thing is asking how we deal with these derisory claims. How do you take on these people, and these ambulance-chasing lawyers?"

Ms English was given a role with Lord Sugar's IT division Viglen after winning The Apprentice but resigned in May 2011 and complained that her role there was that of an "overpaid lackey", something her former boss strongly denied. She also claimed the job was "a sham" and a "PR construct".

The mother of two, from Whitstable, Kent, said she then felt pressurised into taking up a new position at Lord Sugar's internet set-top box company YouView. Lord Sugar said he was simply trying to help her out as she had complained of being "desperate for money''.

Ms English claimed to the tribunal that during an unscheduled meeting on September 28, 2011, Lord Sugar told her he would not be renewing her contract and she then resigned. However, the peer said there was no long-term position available at YouView following the end of her 12-month contract and that she had already made it clear she did not want to work at Viglen.

Mr Warren concluded that Ms English was "ill-advised" to continue with the case. His judgment stated: "We do not find that any of the conduct about which the claimant complains... was conduct which destroyed or seriously damaged trust and confidence entitling the claimant to terminate her employment and to claim unfair constructive dismissal."

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