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Employment Case Law Update: Beatt v Croydon Health Services

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In Beatt v Croydon Health Services, Mr Beatt was a consultant cardiologist and there were strained relationships between him and some of his colleagues.  Whilst performing an invasive operation in 2011, his head nurse, Sister Jones, was suspended and the patient tragically died.

Mr Beatt was arguing that Sister Jones’ absence contributed to the patient’s death and believed the timing of the suspension was irresponsible.  He raised various concerns about staff levels and patient safety but a report completed by the Health Service concluded his allegations were “entirely without merit and… gratuitous in nature”.  Mr Beatt was suspended and then dismissed for gross misconduct on the grounds that he had made false accusations of poor patient safety as well as making unfounded accusations against a colleague. 

He brought a claim for automatic unfair dismissal for making a protected disclosure. He won his claim at the Employment Tribunal, where they found that the principal reason for his dismissal was the making of the protected disclosure, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal allowed the Trust’s appeal against the decision.

The EAT decided that the tribunal had embarked on its own assessment of the conduct charges. They held that the tribunal failed to identify why it did not believe the Trust’s evidence that conduct had been the reason for dismissal.

One of the Trust’s arguments was that the tribunal had failed to make reductions for contributory fault or Polkey reductions. The EAT remitted the matter back to the tribunal so made no finding on this point.

Mr Beatt then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which was allowed.  The CoA found there was no dispute that Mr Beatt had made protected disclosures; the question was whether the tribunal was right to find that this was the principle reason he was dismissed. They held it was irrelevant if the Trust thought the disclosures were not protected, or not made in good faith.

Lord Justice Underhill stated that employers should not allow their opinion of a whistleblower being a difficult colleague to cloud their judgment as to whether the disclosures had a reasonable basis, were made in good faith or the public interest.  The CoA also held that no Polkey or contributory fault deductions should be made.

There is a high level of protection for whistleblowers in the law and the decision in this case does emphasise that.  It shows that it can be difficult for an employer who has dismissed a whistleblower to separate the issue of dismissal and protected disclosures.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.