An experienced care worker has described being fired shortly after the peak of the first coronavirus wave for filming a Beyonce dance routine while wearing PPE in a bid to cheer up her isolated colleagues.
Michelle Cooper led a team at Cormac Community Care Services which helps rehabilitate people at home after they have been discharged from hospital. The 55-year-old had worked at the Cornwall Council-owned company for seven years.
Several weeks into the first lockdown, Ms Cooper said that in her role as team leader, she recognised some of her colleagues were “struggling with isolation”.
Taking inspiration from “hundreds and hundreds” of videos on social media showing medics, police officers and other public sector workers dancing while wearing their uniforms and PPE, Ms Cooper decided to film a dance routine along to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” with the hope of raising money from her family and friends for a cream tea to boost her team’s morale.
After allegedly running the idea past her superiors, the 55-year-old and three of her colleagues practised the routine individually at home, eventually filming themselves performing it in her garden together.
The filming took place as they collected PPE from her house in Helston to allow them to safely carry out their home visits, as happened regularly, Ms Cooper told Cornwall Live, stressing that they were socially distanced and that the PPE in the video had been supplied by a local firm.
They posted the video to social media in May, to a positive public reaction, raising £30 towards their staff outing in donations from Ms Cooper’s mother and aunt.
“We all felt we were doing something really good for the team, it gave everybody a boost and we got a lot of positive feedback,” she was reported as saying.
They then made a second video, “just [in] the same format”, reportedly dancing to “Proud Mary”.
However, Ms Cooper said the four were soon contacted by their senior manager.
“They said the videos were not appropriate for Cormac that they would have to be taken down and deleted and we would have to send the money back to those who donated,” Ms Cooper told the news site.
“She said that would be the end of it and we did all of that. A week later, all four of us were suspended.”
Their suspension lasted until July while an investigation was carried out.
While her colleagues received written warnings, Ms Cooper was dismissed in early August.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “They put us through the worst time ever with the investigation and disciplinary action.”
Speaking to the SWNS news agency, Ms Cooper alleged that their suspension came “at a huge cost to taxpayers when our services were needed more than ever”, adding: “We later found out it had a massive impact on the team and they were left desperately left short.”
While Ms Cooper successfully appealed her dismissal, she was given a final written warning to last three years and was then offered a different role, which she alleged was lower-paid.
She initially took the job, but resigned shortly afterwards.
“After what they put me and family through I didn’t feel I could work there anymore,” she told Cornwall Live, adding: “I was devastated, completely devastated, I had some amazing relationships with staff, team leaders and carers and I have been able to keep in touch with them.”
Ms Cooper has reportedly since taken a new job with a different care provider, telling SWNS: “When I went for the interview I had to explain what happened and they were as gobsmacked as I was about our treatment.”
Alison Waller, Cormac Community Care Services’ managing director said in a statement: “Without commenting on any specific cases, as one of Cornwall’s largest employers, Corserv is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of all our employees and our communities.
“Our social care services are helping to support the most vulnerable people across Cornwall operating under clear local and national regulation.
“Our company policies are in place to ensure we adhere to all regulation standards which are there to protect and guide our workforce and to protect our clients. Where there is a significant breach of regulated activity we will always take the appropriate action to resolve.”