Perthshire “whistleblower’s” unfair dismissal claim rejected

A former care manager with Perth and Kinross Council’s social work department has lost her claim for constructive unfair dismissal after making “whistleblowing” claims against the authority.

Jean Bush, of Crieff, resigned from her post in April last year, specifying a total of 18 grounds.

She alleged that the council had failed to provide her with a safe place of work, failed to carry out their own procedures and failed to follow the advice of their own occupational health advisers.

She also alleged that, after two spells of absence because of work-related illness, after which she made disclosures in terms of the Employment Rights Act 1996, she suffered detriments.

Mrs Bush claimed that documents had been forged and that the council did not carry out a proper investigation into her grievance that she had been subjected to endemic institutional bullying and intimidation.

The employment tribunal hearing, which took place over 10 days during the last two months, was told that Mrs Bush was responsible for 17 council and privately-run care homes in Perth city and west Perthshire.

In October 2010, Mrs Bush was called to a meeting about her flexi-hours timekeeping, which was minus 94 hours.

She raised concerns about her workload and then went off ill, but information came to light that she was “actively touting for work” while off with stress, and this was contrary to the council’s policy.

The situation escalated over a series of meetings until Mrs Bush resigned.

An employee is entitled to protection if they disclose factual information relating to a number of areas, including criminal offences and health and safety.

Tribunal judge Mrs M Kearns said that Mrs Bush made a lot of general allegations, but was “unable to point to anything specific”. She referred to bullying, harassment and intimidation “liberally and inappropriately” in her correspondence with the council.

The tribunal found that the council had reasonable and proper cause to investigate possible breaches of their policies after it emerged that Mrs Bush was looking into a business opportunity while on sick leave.

The tribunal also ruled that Mrs Bush’s disclosures were merely allegations. She was unable to give specific examples of bullying, and the tribunal concluded there was no proper basis for the allegation, and her public interest disclosure claim failed.