Former Balfour Beatty employee wins £137,000 in whistleblowing Employment Tribunal case

hmctsA former employee of a major construction and infrastructure firm has settled his claim against the organisation for a six-figure sum after he alleged that he had been victimised and unfairly dismissed by the organisation.

Nigel McArthur, settled his Employment Tribunal claims against Balfour Beatty for the sum of £137,000 after the organisation admitted liability.

Mr McArthur has worked in the construction industry for 38 years and joined Balfour Beatty in 2005. In 2008 he was promoted to the position of regional pre-construction manager on a salary of £76,000. In 2014 Balfour Beatty was awarded a £18.5 million contract by the Welsh Government to build an office building in Cardiff’s Callaghan Square as part of the regeneration project of a vacant site, and as part of the contract with the Welsh Government Balfour Beatty would make an agreed 3.3% profit.

Mr McArthur alleged in 2014 that instead of the agreed 3.3% profit Balfour Beatty were supposed to make, they were allegedly accruing a 7.34% profit instead. He reported this to his line manager but was allegedly told that “he should not have investigated the costs or alternatively should not have been concerned about it”. He also alleged that two directors had expressed agreement with his concerns but that, subsequent to his conversations with the directors, he been verbally confronted and bullied by his line manager.

In February 2015 Mr McArthur resigned from his position at Balfour Beatty and subsequently issued Employment Tribunal proceedings for constructive dismissal, detriment/dismissal due to protected disclosure (also known as ‘whistleblowing’), and breach of contract in the same month.

The case was due to be heard in the Bristol Employment Tribunal in November 2015 but the hearing has been vacated after the parties agreed a settlement of £137,000, with Balfour Beatty admitting liability in the claims, although denying that they had carried out any criminal activity or breached any legal obligations.

Mr McArthur commented as follows on his claim: “I had to fund the legal case which has cost £40,000. The company strung it along as I racked up costs. I believe I had done the right thing. It was my belief that I never doubted that what I discovered was a deliberate attempt to defraud the Welsh Government.  I believe the company covered it up and that was the most disappointing thing. There should have been a proper independent investigation.”

A Balfour Beatty spokeswoman stated: “Balfour Beatty admitted liability in this case. We regret that we failed to properly support our employee following concerns they raised which resulted in them feeling it necessary to resign. As soon as senior management were aware of the facts regarding the Callaghan Square project, we provided full disclosure to the Welsh Assembly who were satisfied with our approach.”

The spokeswoman also stated that no criminal offence had been committed and that there had not been a failure to comply with the law.

Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “If an employee raises concerns of criminal or unlawful conduct to the management of a business then it is important that a proper, thorough, and prompt investigation of the substance of the allegations is undertaken, and that a report on the allegations is produced swiftly and impartially. A failure to undertake such action could render the business vulnerable to Employment Tribunal litigation.”

The Exeter Express & Echo’s article on Mr McArthur’s claim can be found here.