Courts have begun extending protections for whistleblowers, which has been demonstrated in the recent Royal Mail case, where the Supreme Court has today upheld a ruling in favour of a former Royal Mail employee. The employee, Ms Jhuti, was dismissed from her role following an attempt to call out alleged bad practice.
The Case Background
Ms Jhuti joined Royal Mail in September 2013, working as a media specialist until her dismissal in July 2014. The difficulties began to arise when she raised concerns in an email to her manager that an employee was breaching Ofcom regulations in their use of customer incentives. The staff member was allegedly making “improper” offers to repeat customers in breach of company policy.
Following this accusation, Ms Jhuti had a meeting where she was informed that if she were to press the allegations further, her employment would be at risk. Following on from this conversation, her superior and the company appointed another manager to review the evidence and make a decision as to whether Jhuti’s employment should be terminated. Consequently, Jhuti following an investigation.
An employment tribunal initially rejected Jhuti’s claim for unfair dismissal, based on the fact that the firing manager was not aware a protected disclosure had been made – believing the claim that Jhuti’s performance had not met the expected standards.
However, the tribunal’s decision was reversed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which found the reason for her dismissal was the whistleblowing. This decision was consequently upturned by the Court of Appeal, which believed that the tribunal was only required to practice only the means of the decision-maker and the knowledge the decision-maker had accepted into account. They established that there was no link between the alleged poor treatment and the disciplinary matter.
Following on from this case, a Royal Mail spokesperson said the organisation’s employees “should not suffer any detrimental treatment” as a result of raising a concern. They have a whistleblowing hotline in place called ‘Speak Up’, which allows employees to raise concerns anonymously should they so wish.
What can employers learn from this case?
Dismissal should be conducted in a fair and considerate manner, making sure investigations are carried out for causes of grievances in the workplace. Before terminating employment, employers will need to investigate the real causes of grievances in the workplace. Just taking into account provisions under the Employment Rights Act 1996 is no longer enough, which is why provisions under the Equality Act 2010 now need to be taken into account.
If you are looking for assistance in any areas of employment law, the Nationwide Employment Lawyers website is where you need to be. We have a wealth of experience working with high profile whistleblowers, companies, local authorities, trade unions and human resource managers – so you know we are the firm you need to contact.
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