Unfair dismissal and “whistleblowing”

Acting for an employee who was also a director and shareholder of a business in which his two fellow directors and shareholders, a father and son, seized control and forced him out on the basis of an alleged redundancy after gradually removing most of his duties and responsibilities.  We successfully brought claims of unfair dismissal and unlawful detriments following protected disclosures (whistleblowing) and the matter proceeded to a full tribunal hearing.

The tribunal found in favour of our client and that he had been subjected to various detriments after making protected disclosures.  As the employer was unable to demonstrate that the treatment the employee had been subjected to was in no sense whatsoever because of the protected disclosures, his complaints of unlawful detriment were upheld.  Aggressive and insulting correspondence from the employer’s solicitors was held to amount to a detriment as was the employer’s failure to pay the employee his notice and redundancy payments in a timely manner and behaving in an aggressive way towards the employee at a grievance meeting.

The tribunal held that the real reason for dismissal was not redundancy and that the employee’s dismissal was substantively unfair.

Whilst the client also has a shareholder dispute, the tribunal finding was in relation to his rights as an employee only.  However, the Tribunal made it clear that the fact that he was a statutory director and a 40% shareholder in the business were matters that they had taken into account when considering the reasonableness and propriety of the employer’s treatment of him as an employee.  The Tribunal found that the way the employee had been treated by the respondents in the period prior to his dismissal had been quite astonishing and this was one of the factors that led them to accept that redundancy was not the genuine reason for dismissal.

The client was awarded the maximum compensatory award by the Tribunal at a Remedy Hearing and was also awarded compensation for injury to feelings for the detrimental treatment.