The man who hit the headlines for wrestling with a shark away from children in Australia has been fired because he was on sick leave due to stress.
Paul Marshallsea was on holiday in Queensland when the shark strayed dangerously close prompting Marshallsea to take matters into his own hands.
“But when they arrived back in Britain, Mr Marshallsea and his wife – who worked for the same charity and was also off ill at the time – found letters informing them that they had been sacked.
Mr Marshallsea says he is “disgusted” by the way he has been treated and that instead he should have been congratulated for his feat of bravery. “If I hadn’t gone in to save the kids on that beach that day, my wife and I would still have a job,” he told the WalesOnline website. “Where do I now get a job? There’s not much call for shark wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil.” Mr Marshallsea worked at Dowlais Engine House, where the charity has a base, and his wife was a senior youth worker.
The letter he received read: “Whilst unfit to work, you were well enough to travel to Australia and, according to recent news footage of yourself in Queensland, you allegedly grabbed a shark by the tail and narrowly missed being bitten by quickly jumping out of the way; the photographs and footage appearing in newspapers and television broadcasts.”
Whilst I personally commend what he did on that beach in order to protect those children and ensure the safety of everyone in the water, that does not mean that he should not be fired. What he did on that beach on that day has no bearing to his employment and to the conditions of his employment and whether or not he could be fired.
I am of course not a lawyer, nor am I an employment lawyer but I would say that it’s probably frowned upon if you take leave from work due to stress and then jet off to Australia for a holiday in the sun. That is a rather cheeky way to avoid using your allotted paid leave allowance.
Whether or not his employers were actually right to fire him or not I will not speculate on as much as I couldn’t comment on the specifics, however I believe that it is really not surprising that his employer reacted that way considering it could be seen as a slap in the face somewhat. I really do not see any way in which Marshallsea could play the victim, nor could I see how he could use his actions on that beach as some sort of defence. Frankly I have little sympathy for him.
The comments and reactions on the Huffington Post article on this story is very interesting. Firstly there is a poll which asks whether or not you agree with the decision to fire him. At the time of writing it 41.74% say yes and 58.26% say no.
Furthermore there are a variety of comments at the bottom by members of the site.
“I understand his work being angry over the incident but even if he wasn’t there to combat his stress issues (which he could have been, and stress doesn’t have a lot to do with being physically incapable) the fact he put himself in danger to rescue toddlers, in my eyes, he redeemed himself.”
And kfn said:
“He was on sick leave but was holidaying in Australia. I take it he was claiming sickness benefit so he was committing fraud both to his company and the Benefit Agency. This was fraud plain and simple. Great that he should have saved a life but he was still doing what many other claiments are doing. going on holiday at our expense.”
Either way it will be interesting to see if this develops any further but I think it’s safe to say I really don’t have a great deal of sympathy for him. Granted a holiday is a good way to deal with stress however he’s playing the victim card by claiming that what he did on the beach is somehow relevant, when it clearly isn’t.
As quoted above he said “there’s not much call for shark wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil” so if he’s worried about his next job perhaps he could move elsewhere. Either to somewhere with a large public aquarium or maybe he could start a TV show about wrestling sharks.