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Food supplier fails to test food hygiene

Denise (not her real name) was a manager for a food supplier in the airline industry. Denise’s employer had reduced the number of staff on her team which meant that she and her remaining co-workers did not have capacity to conduct food and hygiene tests on goods. This risked leaving the food unsafe to eat so Denise raised her concern to her line manager but she was ignored and later dismissed.

We advised that Denise now contact either the Food Standards Agency or the local authority as the employer was not taking action. We also advised that the concerns would likely fall within the scope of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 so she could bring a legal claim for her dismissal. We highlighted that the short time between raising concerns and being dismissed strengthened her argument that she was dismissed for whistleblowing. We suggested that she seek support from her trade union before submitting a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

Food producer exposes goods to contamination

Blake (not his real name) worked as an engineer for a food producer. He was concerned that products were not being properly cleaned during production and goods were being exposed to contaminated water and excess chemicals. He also told us that the warehouse where he worked did not have a safe fire alarm system.

Blake raised his concerns confidentially to the CEO but no action was taken – instead, he was threatened with disciplinary action. Blake raised concerns to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but the employer was given enough notice of an investigation to superficially address the concerns. Blake was forced to resign and sought advice on making a claim for constructive dismissal. 

We identified that Blake was fast approaching the time limit for bringing a claim so we suggested that he try to argue that he had suffered a continuing act of detriment over many months and seek urgent advice from his Trade Union. The HSE had since revisited the warehouse on several occasions and Blake was satisfied that the regulator was taking action. Blake submitted his claim in the Employment Tribunal in time and his case is to be heard in late 2020.

Food manufacturer sells out of date and illegal food

Allan (not his real name) worked for a manufacturer of international food products. He was concerned by a number of incidents that he had witnessed. He told us that use-by-dates on products were regularly removed and changed, and illegally imported products were hidden during inspections from Trading Standards. He was also concerned that colleagues were made to work with chemicals without the proper training and protective equipment. Allan had tried to raise concerns with the owner of the business, but was told that this was the only way that the company could make a profit. Allan called Protect for advice.

We reassured Allan that he had done the right thing by highlighting the concerns to the owner. We suggested that he now speak either to the Food Standards Agency or the local authority who could conduct an investigation without drawing attention to him. He could first have a hypothetical conversation with them to understand what action they might take. We explained Allan’s legal rights as a whistleblower and how he could bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal if he was victimised.

Care workers help to stop abuse of vulnerable residents

Simon (not his real name) worked as a senior care assistant. He observed one of the nurses slap residents and, on one occasion, he saw the nurse put his hands around a resident’s neck and force them into their room. Simon could only hear a scream and some banging after this. Simon did not want to raise his concerns to the new manager because other employee’s concerns had been ignored and confidentiality breached.

We discussed Simon’s options and advised that he speak with the deputy manager in confidence. She took his concerns seriously and, soon after, other workers came forward with similar incidents that they had witnessed. The nurse was later convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.

Simon wrote to us some time later and said,

“Your advice and support were invaluable at this time… I never regretted my actions… [My colleagues and I] got through this ordeal by supporting each other and in the knowledge that we were doing the right thing.”

Whistleblower exposed to asbestos speaks up to regulator

Tom (not his real name) worked for an asbestos removal company for several years. A foreman in the company was ignoring the safety procedures for handling asbestos and failed to test a connecting room where Tom was working. This exposed Tom to white asbestos and he contacted Protect for advice.

We advised Tom to seek advice from his GP to create a record of his medical concerns, particularly as asbestos symptoms can develop slowly. Tom had previously raised concerns to an analyst so we advised him to write to her to confirm their telephone conversation. We explored Tom’s personal situation and the outcome he most desired, and we explained his options were either to raise his concerns internally, leave the company and raise his concerns to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), or take advice from a personal injury specialist. We also suggested that he ask the HSE how they were likely to respond to a concern such as this before providing them with all of the details.

Tom decided to find a new job and raise his concerns to the HSE. He thanked us for our advice which he said had been very helpful.

Unsafe food practices resolved by whistleblower speaking up

David (not his real name) was a maintenance engineer at a large UK food manufacturer. The company was in the process of transferring its production to a new building which involved using welding equipment and potentially hazardous cleaning materials. David was concerned that this could contaminate food on the production line. He worried that management and maintenance supervisors had ignored the contamination and hygiene hazards, despite other employees having similar concerns.

We advised David to raise the concern internally either to his supervisor or a responsible senior manager. They were not fully aware of the situation so David could explain his concerns and recommend closing the food line during the transfer. If no action was taken, he could consider contacting the Food Standards Agency.

David spoke to senior management who agreed with his concerns. They provided training to the relevant parties and stopped the transfer during production hours.

Social worker speaks up about inappropriate relationship

Andre (not his real name) was a residential social worker in a children’s home. He was increasingly concerned that a colleague, Lionel (not his real name), seemed to have developed a close relationship with a 12 year old girl in the home. During a holiday, Lionel insisted that the girl should travel in his car alone with him and he spent a lot of time with her during the holiday.

Andre and a colleague raised their concerns discreetly to the local authority who launched an investigation and put Lionel on special leave. Once the investigation concluded, Lionel returned to work and Andre called Protect worried that this was the wrong decision.

We advised Andre to contact the Head of Child Protection at the local authority to explain his concerns. However, we also clarified that it was for the local authority to decide the appropriate action and what mattered was that it was sure that Lionel was not a risk. We highlighted that Lionel’s return to the home did not mean that no action had been taken. Andre spoke to the local authority and felt reassured with its decision as he knew that it would monitor the home and remind staff of the value of whistleblowing.

Fraud in family company puts whistleblower in difficult position

Jin (not his real name) was the personnel manager for a family-run engineering firm.

In the past, the family managers of the company had used company money to pay for private work done on their own homes. Jin had let this pass as it was a family business but two employees recently told him that the scale of these private works was becoming extensive. Jin was worried about raising this to the Board of non-executive directors because the company managers had a well-earned reputation as hard men in the local community. He rang Protect for advice.

We advised Jin that if he wanted to stay with the firm, the best option was to raise the concern with the family managers. By referring to the fact that staff were talking about it and the risk that they might report the wrongdoing elsewhere, he could help the family understand that the private works should be stopped. This approach made his role part of the solution so it was unlikely he would be victimised. We explained his rights under whistleblowing law in the event he was dismissed. The alternative option was for Jin to find a new job elsewhere and then raise the concern.

Jin thanked us for the advice. He decided to resign from the company and raised his concerns once he secured new employment.

Manager convicted for theft in care home

Felix (not his real name) worked in a care home. He and some of his colleagues believed that a manager was stealing from residents by recording money as being given to particular residents when they had received none.

Felix raised his concerns with the owners of the home and an investigation quickly found that Felix was right. The manager was dismissed and reported to the police. Unfortunately, working relationships became tense as the manager’s close colleagues objected to Felix’s actions. Felix was suspended over false allegations that he had mistreated the residents.

We advised Felix to address these allegations on their merits: they were false and he could easily show that to be the case. The allegations were found to have no substance but the owners decided to transfer him to another home anyway. We helped Felix to draft a letter explaining that he wanted to stay at the home and that transferring him after he had blown the whistle would send the wrong message to other staff. The owners reconsidered and Felix stayed at the home.

The manager was later convicted of stealing £1,400 from the residents and Felix was pleased that the atmosphere at work had improved.

Protect helps food sector whistleblower agree £100,000 settlement

Jada (not her real name) was a manager for a well known food chain.

A new Divisional Director told managers to complete staff satisfaction surveys themselves, rather than their teams, as this would boost their bonuses. Jada thought this was wrong and raised her concern to the Compliance Team in the United States. They assured Jada they would investigate and promised her confidentiality. Soon after, Jada heard the Divisional Director telling other managers that she had reported him. Jada followed up with the US Compliance Team who appointed investigators and later found her concerns proven. Two weeks later, Jada was called to a meeting where the employer questioned her about old incidents at work that she knew nothing about. As she left the meeting, Jada had a heated conversation with the Divisional Director and she was later suspended.

We explained Jada’s rights under whistleblowing law and advised that she had done nothing wrong. We referred Jada to litigation lawyers who helped her to start a claim in the Employment Tribunal. At the door of the tribunal, her case settled for over £100,000. We advised Jada to be honest with future job applications and she now has a new job and studies law in the evenings. Jada has no regrets and still values her former company, commenting that its ethics had been hijacked by one individual. Jada doubted she would have coped without the counselling and support that Protect provided.