A former solicitor at a bank whose career was ‘thrown severely off course’ by unfavourable treatment at work has been awarded a total of £1.1m by an employment tribunal.

Employment Judge Joffe made the award to Gulnaz Raja after a previous ruling that digital challenger bank Starling had treated her unfairly. Raja, an asthmatic, needed to work from home and have time off during the pandemic, but she was dismissed in March 2020 and told by general counsel Matthew Newman that she was ‘not a Starling person’.

In a remedy ruling published this week, the judge said Raja ‘lost her job at what would have been the worst possible time in recent history and was presented with grave difficulties in obtaining new work at that extremely stressful and difficult time’.

Raja, who was admitted in 2010, argued before the tribunal it would take at least 10 years to replace her lost earnings. After being employed on a salary of £76,000 with the bank, she had started her own law firm and also obtained a part-time law lecturing role at a university.

The judge said she was ‘doing her best in difficult circumstances’ and would have been obliged to explain to potential employers she was dismissed after raising a health and safety matter.

‘We could see from the claimant’s career before and after her dismissal by the first respondent significant evidence of hard work, resilience and adaptability,’ the judge added.

Raja – who represented herself – had claimed that she was unfairly dismissed, unfairly treated because Starling did not investigate her allegations of discrimination, and that she was ‘victimised’ by the bank.

Three of her five allegations did not succeed, but her claim of unfavourable treatment due to her disability was upheld. The judge found that Raja’s ‘ill-health absences and need to work from home and her likely requirement for further time off in particular were a material reason for her dismissal’.

The tribunal awarded £541,000 for past and future loss of earnings and other benefits. Separately her compensation was £658,000.

Following the substantive hearing last year, a Starling spokesperson said: ‘We’re pleased the tribunal found in favour of Starling on three of the five counts. But we are, of course, very disappointed in the finding against us on two counts and do not feel it fairly reflects the Starling culture or how we look after our team.’