Whistleblower was unfairly dismissed

A cleaner was automatically unfairly dismissed after he made protected disclosures through his union about working conditions, a tribunal has ruled. The employer claimed that the employee was dismissed for “poor performance” after he raised concerns about safety at work and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. The complaints included being pressured to work extra time; inadequate equipment; having to drive a car with expired insurance; and not being given gloves to use when cleaning toilets.

The employer claimed that the employee was dismissed due to client complaints but the employee was not shown any of the client complaints that allegedly led to his dismissal, nor was any process followed in dismissing him.

The tribunal judge found that the real reason for the dismissal was because his employer was “annoyed he had raised protected disclosures and used his trade union in order to do so and was punishing him as a result”.

The employee was sent a letter informing him that he was dismissed with effect on 21 September, on the basis of “poor performance following alleged complaints from clients”. However, the tribunal noted that the complaints were not shown to the employee and no process was followed in dismissing him.

The tribunal ruled that the claims of unfair and automatic unfair dismissal were well-founded, as was his claim of unlawful detriment.

There is a statutory prohibition on subjecting employees to any detriment or dismissing them because of whistleblowing or trade union activities. A ‘protected disclosure’ or ‘whistleblowing’ by an employee may not be described as such when it is raised and it is down to the employer to recognise it as this.

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