Whistleblower Who Feared For Her Safety After Reporting Sheesha Den Wins £31K

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Whistleblower Who Feared For Her Safety After Reporting Sheesha Den Wins £31K
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Farah Ahmad, a former employee of the Human Relief Foundation (HRF) charity, told a tribunal that she felt intimidated by colleagues after finding the office transformed into a sheesha den during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Continue reading to learn more about the case, the tribunal’s decision, and how to properly manage whistleblowers in the workplace.

Sheesha Den Discovered at HRF’s Office

In August 2020, during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown, Farah Ahmad attended the office to collect some of her belongings. Upon entering, she found cigarettes and other substances on tables, along with glass bottles, sheesha, and hookah pipe equipment. Also present were coal burners with burned coal, a sign reading “HRF Sheesha Cave”, and a potent smell of smoke.

Miss Ahmad sent a whistleblowing letter to the charity’s management, reporting the sheesha den discovery. On 11 September, HR told staff to collect their belongings, as the office would be closed for an investigation. Miss Ahmad was reassured that she wouldn’t see any of the colleagues whose names she had included in the letter.

Read: Senior Surgeon at Royal United Hospital Bath Takes Employer to an ET After Being Sacked For Raising Safety Concerns

However, said colleagues were present upon her arrival at the office, constituting an “uncomfortable situation” given her report of the sheesha den. Two such colleagues intimidated Miss Ahmad outside the building, making her fear for her safety. Miss Ahmad then suffered “a series of detriments” from staff and was ultimately dismissed on 8 October 2020.

She subsequently brought several Employment Tribunal claims, including one related to unfair dismissal. She brought up another relating to the intimidation she experienced after whistleblowing about the sheesha den.

What Did the Employment Tribunal Say?

Judge Allen heard Miss Ahmad’s claims at the Employment Tribunal in Manchester. After hearing the case facts, the tribunal held Miss Ahmad had been subject to detriments for making a protected disclosure. It was outlined that employees mustn’t receive detrimental treatment for whistleblowing, irrespective of their length of service at the time.

The tribunal highlighted the financial repercussions that an employer may face if an employee is dismissed or subjected to unfair treatment for whistleblowing. Dismissal in these circumstances would constitute unfair dismissal for which the level of compensation payable is uncapped. Compensation for injury to feelings for any such unfair treatment following whistleblowing may also be significant.

Miss Ahmad was awarded £30,000 for injury to feelings as a result of the detriments she suffered for reporting the sheesha den and a further £1,607 for breach of contract with respect to a different matter.

How to Improve Whistleblower Management

An employee will be a whistleblower if they report wrongdoing which is in the public interest. The wrongdoing in question must, therefore, affect others for its reporting to constitute whistleblowing. In the UK, whistleblowing employees are protected against dismissal or any form of unfair treatment which results from their whistleblowing.

If an employee makes a “protected disclosure” (that is, reports wrongdoing in the public interest), it is crucial to manage the situation fairly and consistently. It is equally important to ensure that the identity of the employee in question remains confidential for their own protection.

Read: Ex-BBC Commentator Claims Unfair Dismissal Following Whistleblowing Incident

For whistleblower management, it is advisable for employers to have a whistleblowing policy in place which sets out the processes to be followed if an employee becomes a whistleblower. This will enable employers to identify whistleblowing disclosures more easily, specify ways in which employees can make such protected disclosures safely, and reassure them that they will be listened to and protected. A whistleblowing policy should be reviewed regularly to ensure its continued effectiveness.

Once the policy is in place, it will be essential to ensure that it is followed in the event of a protected disclosure being made and to ensure a high standard of whistleblower management. Employees should be made aware of the policy so that they, too, will know what to expect in these circumstances. Training should be provided, particularly to managers and HR staff, to enable them to fully understand the processes which must be followed to protect whistleblowing employees.

Get Help With Your Employment Law Issue

We hope you enjoyed reading this latest employment law update about the sheesha den. If you did, subscribe to our newsletter now to ensure you don’t miss our future publications. Also, if you’ve experienced unfair treatment as a result of being a whistleblowing employee, contact Redmans Solicitors. Their team of friendly and approachable employment law experts can advise you on your possible next steps following a quick consultation.

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