Sacked tennis boss wins £27,000 after refusing double-jabbed COVID policy

Sarah Synan has successfully sued the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Sarah Synan. (LinkedIn)
Sarah Synan has successfully sued the International Tennis Federation. (LinkedIn)

An executive at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has won more than £27,000 after being sacked for refusing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine policy.

Sarah Synan, a former wheelchair tennis team lead, sued the organisation when she was fired from her post last year when it had enforced a strict new policy.

The ITF announced in October 2021 that employees must be double-jabbed to travel - even though there were no requirements to be vaccinated to enter the country at the time.

As a result, Synan could not attend the US Masters tournament and faced other strict restrictions which meant she also missed the Christmas party.

A logo is seen at the entrance to the International Tennis Federation headquarters, where the Tennis Integrity Unit is based, in London, Britain January 18, 2016. World tennis was rocked on Monday by allegations that the game's authorities have failed to deal with widespread match-fixing, just as the Australian Open, the first grand slam tournament of the year, kicked off in Melbourne. Tennis authorities rejected reports by the BBC and online BuzzFeed News, which said 16 players who have been ranked in the top 50 had been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they had thrown matches in the past decade. REUTERS/Toby Melville
The International Tennis Federation enforced a strict vaccination policy. (Reuters)

She successfully sued the ITF for unfair dismissal, winning £27,465 in compensation after a tribunal ruled it would have been obvious COVID-19 difficulties were clearing up and firing her was unreasonable.

The hearing in Croydon, south London, heard Miss Synan was sacked from her £37,500 a year role on 22 February, 2022.

This was a day after the government announced the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive COVID test would end.

Synan, who said she had “anxiety” about getting vaccinated and had contracted COVID twice, had worked at the London-based ITF for four years.

Internal emails from Head of Wheelchair Tennis Alistair Williams and HR director Jane O'Sullivan showed them discussing how to deal with un-vaccinated employees.

O'Sullivan wrote: “This is serious stuff and I think we need to take a hard line on non ‘vaxxed’ people.”

Williams later sacked Miss Synan, saying she "put visitors at risk".

A tribunal report said: “Staff were strongly encouraged to get the vaccine, but there was no formal requirement to do so.”

Concluding she had been unfairly dismissed, Employment Judge Eoin Fowell said they were 'particularly severe restrictions' as it was at odds with government advice.

He added: "The national and international COVID situation were clearly improving at the time of Miss Synan’s dismissal.”

The judge said: "To dismiss Miss Synan in those circumstances seems to me to be a decision which is outside the range of reasonable responses."

Concern over drop in vaccine uptake

Health leaders have raised concerns about a dip in vaccine coverage since the start of the pandemic.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said that declining rates in vaccine take up were “of concern” and NHS officials warned about the “worrying” dip in the number of pre-schoolers who were up to date with their vaccinations.

Caulfield insisted that no mandatory vaccination programmes were planned, as seen in other countries.

Although she hinted that the flu jab offer would be extended this winter to include more schoolchildren.