Croydon Council has been told to pay £15,000 to an ex-director for wages she missed out on while suspended and off sick.

The authority has called the judge’s ruling a “worrying precedent” and said it is now “considering its options”.

Hazel Simmonds was appointed the council’s director of Gateway, Strategy and Engagement in 2018. She reigned in September 2022, 18 months after she was suspended.

She was one of four senior staff members to be investigated in the wake of the authority’s cash crisis,  where it had to issue a Section 114 notice as it could not balance the books.

An employment tribunal ruled that between November 2021 and March 2022, Miss Simmonds “suffered an unlawful deduction from her wages in the net sum of £14,527.09”.

The employment tribunal decision, published last week, said Miss Simmonds was suspended on February 10, 2021.

And on July 27, 2021, her sick leave began after a doctor’s note confirmed she was “unfit for work” but was still able to attend meetings with adjustments.

In the written conclusion, Employment Judge Fowell wrote:  “The lesson to be drawn from this is that it is the employer who needs to specify in clear language that the right to pay during suspension is subject to the sick pay arrangements rather than the other way round.”

A council spokesperson said: “The judge’s ruling sets a worrying precedent for the payment of senior staff who are sick while suspended.

"We will be considering our options, including speaking to the Local Government Association and national employers.”

Miss Simmonds was appointed to head up the council’s new Gateway, Strategy and Engagement division in November 2018.

The department includes housing, strategy, policy development, communications, community relations, and the council’s Gateway welfare service.