A dinner lady has won £45,000 for constructive unfair dismissal at a tribunal. The employee used the council’s whistleblowing hotline to raise her concerns on the kitchen practices at the school she was employed by.
Neydi Vasconcelos – who worked as a part-time dinner lady at Medlock Primary School in Manchester – contacted the council three times in 2016. The Manchester Employment Tribunal heard that the primary school responded to the dinner lady allegations four months after she made them. The concerns involved the use of resources in the school’s kitchen.
Vasconcelos said the school made her feel like she was “being punished for trying to do the right thing”. Once her identity as the whistleblower was revealed, Vasconcelos said her colleagues bullied her. As a result, she made many requests to the council to be transferred to another role; however, she felt as if she had to resign after none of her requests were given the appropriate consideration.
Vasconcelos’ claim for constructive unfair dismissal was allowed after the judge said her first concern involving the use of kitchen resources should have had a thorough investigation. The judge also said the bullying allegations should “have been investigated by management” and her transfer requests should have been taken into consideration. Vasconcelos shouldn’t have been made to feel as if she should resign as her concerns were legitimate protected disclosures.
Vasconcelos was awarded £45,000 in damages and loss of earnings. The council later admitted they should have investigated her bullying claims as soon as she told them. The council accepted Vasconcelos’ resignation was because the treatment she received led to unfair constructive dismissal and they offered a ‘sincere apology’.
A partner in the employment team at Coffin Mew, Leon Deakin, described the school’s actions as “a schoolboy error”. He also said the tribunal sent a very clear message to employers on how whistleblowing employees should be treated through the size of Vasconcelos’ award.
The regulations around whistleblowing are there to protect employees who make protected disclosures. Employees should feel comfortable when raising their concerns about the business. Vasconcelos’ employer shouldn’t have revealed her identity as not only did her colleagues bully her as a result, but she was also falsely accused that her actions were in the wrong: which of course is not the case.
If appropriate action isn’t taken when concerns are raised, it prevents employees from whistleblowing in the future. All investigations should be carried out and not dismissed. Its important employers can create an environment where employees are encouraged to raise any concerns they have as and when they see fit. When employees make protected disclosures, it is vital to keep the employee up-to-date throughout the process so they are aware of how their concern is being dealt with.
If you need advice or guidance on whistleblowing or if you have any questions regarding this post, please contact a member of the HPC team:
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