Whistleblowing nurse wins £80,000 at Employment Tribunal

MoJA nurse has won sizeable compensation after she submitted a legal claim against her former employer as she believed she had been unfairly dismissed because she had ‘blown the whistle’ at work.

Elaine Fernandez was awarded £80,000 by the Employment Tribunal after she sued her former employer, Allied Healthcare Group, for automatic unfair dismissal on the grounds that she had made a protected disclosure.

Ms Fernandez, a nurse at Allied Healthcare Group, raised concerns to a local health board in an email in October 2011 that patients should be cared for by nurses and not by healthcare assistants, as the healthcare assistants lacked the necessary skills to look after some patients. This email – which was headed ‘confidential’ – was later that day forwarded by the health care board to Ms Fernandez’s managers at Allied Healthcare. Ms Fernandez was threatened with disciplinary action the next day and received further warnings for continuing to detail her concerns regarding patient care in her patient’s logbook. Ms Fernandez was eventually removed from Allied Healthcare’s health package in September 2012 and was offered no further work by the business. She subsequently brought Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal, automatic unfair dismissal, and detriment due to protected disclosure.

The case came to the Employment Tribunal earlier this year, with Ms Fernandez giving evidence in her favour. The Employment Tribunal ruled in Ms Fernandez’s favour in her claim for automatic unfair dismissal, finding that her dismissal had been principally on the grounds that she had made protected disclosures regarding patient care. She was awarded £80,000 in compensation for loss of earnings, injury to feelings, and interest as a result.

A spokeswoman for Allied Healthcare stated after the judgment: “We have new systems to enable our colleagues to raise concerns of any kind, with new processes and protections that we believe are now the best in the sector.”

Ms Fernandez commented: “Whistleblowing is traumatic, but it is not something you have a choice about. In my case I didn’t have a choice because I knew the patient was at risk from staff who were not properly trained and that they would be coming back.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “Businesses should address any complaint or concern raised by staff members in a fair, thorough, and timely fashion or they risk potential claims for whistleblowing or constructive dismissal in the Employment Tribunal. As this case shows, losing such cases can be expensive – both in terms of the organisation’s reputation and as a result of compensation awarded.”