In the long - running whistleblowing case of Jhuti v Royal Mail Group, the employment tribunal has now given its decision on remedy and awarded substantial damages.
Ms Jhuti worked at Royal Mail as an employee from September 2013 to October 2014, at which point she was dismissed. She complained to an employment tribunal that she had been automatically unfairly dismissed and had suffered other detriments as a result of making a protected disclosure. She won her claim, eventually, in the Supreme Court. See more detail of the Supreme Court’s decision here.
Decision on remedy
The employment tribunal has ordered Royal Mail Group to pay total substantial compensation to Ms Jhuti. In whistleblowing cases, compensation is uncapped. In the judgment, the tribunal stated that Ms Jhuti had been subject to a “campaign of bullying, intimidation and harassment” which ultimately “destroyed” her life. In reaching its decision, the tribunal relied on medical evidence which supported the fact that Ms Jhuti would never work again due to the impact of her employer’s actions.
The compensation included loss of earnings up to the normal retirement age of 67. The tribunal assumed that Ms Jhuti would have received 2% annual pay increases up to retirement. In addition, an award of £55,000 was made for personal injury. The tribunal found that Ms Jhuti’s depression had arisen solely as a result of Royal Mail Group’s conduct. The tribunal further awarded Ms Jhuti £40,000 in relation to injury to feelings.
An award for aggravated damages is only generally made where the tribunal considers a respondent’s conduct is particularly “high handed” (and so, is very rarely awarded). In this case, the tribunal noted that Royal Mail Group’s conduct during the remedies hearing was malicious and oppressive. For example, Royal Mail Group had clearly not accepted the factual findings of the Supreme Court and, during the hearing, cross-examined Ms Jhuti as if the findings of fact had not been made. In particular, it was suggested that Ms Jhuti had been dishonest in her dealings with medical experts and the tribunal. The tribunal said this cross examination was "painful to witness" and caused the claimant to recollect the bullying she had previously suffered. The tribunal made an aggravated damages award of £12,500.
Finally, the tribunal awarded an uplift for an unreasonable breach of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures. Royal Mail Group had deliberately failed to provide an outcome to Ms Jhuti's grievance for three months. In the tribunal’s view, this conduct would ordinarily have applied a 10% uplift however in the circumstances, they are obliged to consider the financial value of this uplift being applied. Given the substantial value of compensation being awarded, the tribunal said that an uplift of 10% would have meant that the claimant would have received a disproportionate and unjustified amount of compensation. An uplift of 0.5% was therefore considered sufficient in the circumstances.
This case is a useful reminder of how the tribunal can award substantial compensation in whistleblowing cases, which can go further than pure financial loss of earnings. Where there is a separate detriment suffered up to the point of dismissal, compensation is assessed on a similar basis to compensation for discrimination claims and can include non-financial elements such as injury to feelings.