Devil in the detail for cycling IT worker

Dismissed civil servant took part in 66-mile race while off sick

by Rebecca McIlhone   March 4, 2009  

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A local newspaper’s coverage of the Dartmoor Devil bike race led to an IT worker’s dismissal when he was listed as a participant despite being off sick with a chest infection.

Andrew Hamlyn, 54, claimed he was unfairly dismissed after failing to return to work for 92 days, but bosses at Teignbridge District Council say he took part in the “gruelling” 66-mile road race soon after he went off work, according to The Guardian.

A spokesman for the council told road.cc: “His participation in the cycling event was discovered following coverage in the local press which listed participants in the race.”

Hamlyn, of Newton Abbot, Devon, was signed off sick with a viral chest infection and stress-related illness in October 2007. Three weeks later he took part in the Dartmoor Devil, described by the organisers as: “no ordinary bicycle ride, where a horde of cyclists ride 60-plus miles across the dizzy heights of Dartmoor, riding through the mists, along lanes strewn with the debris of recent storms, battling the wind on the exposed road.”

Hamlyn is listed in the competition’s hall of fame as having completed the event six times, and told an employment tribunal in Exeter he had been told to continue cycling by his doctor to help aid his recovery.

At the hearing he claimed he was unfairly sacked and subjected to a "campaign of bullying" because his employers contacted him 58 times during his absence. He said he provided the council with a sick note from his GP and added that the "barrage" of communication from his employer made his condition worse, according to the report in The Guardian.

The council dismissed Hamlyn after he had been off sick for a total of 92 days on the grounds of incapability due to ill health.

The council told the tribunal that if Hamlyn had been well enough to take part in the race, why hadn’t he come to a meeting with his employer?

Hamlyn told the tribunal: "I was hoping to have some time to get myself together and return to work. My condition was exacerbated by the stress of receiving letters, emails and calls."

Hamlyn lost his case for unfair dismissal after the tribunal ruled taking part in the event proved he was fit enough to correspond with his employers about his illness.

Judge John Major said: "The fact is that he simply refused to comply with perfectly reasonable requests for information from his employer.

"But to have taken part in the Devil Endurance Event, the complainant must have done some training — meaning he could have made a short telephone call to his employer updating them of his situation. What caused this dismissal was the failure to respond in any way to the requests of the employer."

Find out more about the Dartmoor Devil here