Client success story - Defending a claim of whistleblowing
Posted on 1st December 2023 at 14:37
Our client was a small medical centre with no HR department, facing claims from a disgruntled former employee.
During the claimant’s employment, managers and colleagues had raised several concerns about her behaviour and performance which had not been well managed. There was no evidence that these concerns were raised with the claimant or a plan of action agreed, and no formal sanctions were issued. Our client had also not provided the claimant with an employment contract, contrary to s1 Employment Rights Act 1996.
Following her dismissal, the former employee made a claim for unfair dismissal and whistleblowing.
Our client at first attempted to deal with the dispute themselves, issuing their response a day late and without asking for an extension of time. The tribunal could have rejected it for being outside of the 28-day deadline or limited our client’s involvement in proceedings, reducing their opportunities to defend themselves. After realising they needed help, our client instructed us one week before the preliminary hearing.
Andrea took the matter on. When reading the documentation to get familiar with the matter, it became clear to Andrea that the claims were weak.
The Claimant had cited five years’ service, but there had been a break in service. She actually had less than two years’ continued service, so did not have the required service to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.
The claimant had asserted whistleblowing without giving any evidence or explanation. On further investigation Andrea determined that the alleged ‘disclosures’ were comments and complaints about small matters and personal disputes. These did not amount to protected disclosures and, even if they had done, the claimant had not informed the correct people.
We compiled an agenda for the preliminary hearing, which was sent to the tribunal and the claimant. This detailed the weaknesses in the claims and asked the tribunal to request further detail about the whistleblowing claim from the complainant.
After receiving our letter, the claimant withdrew her claims the day before the preliminary hearing.
Our client was relieved to have been spared the time and stress of a tribunal hearing. However, the client could have avoided some of the stress and cost by seeking legal advice sooner. If they had sought advice when issues were raised during the claimant’s employment, we could have advised them of how to protect themselves by addressing the issues and keeping records. We could also have ensured the defence of the claim was well-managed from the outset.
Had they sought advice before any issues occurred, we would have recommended that the practice develop robust policies for managing performance and behaviour.
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