The case involved Oxford Said Business School v Heslop.
Heslop had made protected disclosures to her manager concerning the lawfulness of the school’s actions in a procurement process, and potential over-charging and breach of contract in relation to a key client.
The manager felt that the allegations were misconceived. Shortly after making those disclosures, Heslop went on annual leave.
During her absence two members of her team approached the manager with complaints about her leadership style. The manager arranged a meeting for Heslop’s first day back in the office but did not state the purpose of the meeting, which was to suspend her from work and to end her employment.
An investigation had not taken place. He also approached other members of her team to gather other criticisms of her. During the meeting, he told her that complaints had been made, but refused to disclose the nature of the complaints or the identity of the complainants.
He stated that she had lost the trust and confidence of her team and could not return.
Heslop lodged a grievance and resigned two months after the meeting with the manager, still unaware of the details of the complaints and the identity of the complainants.
A subsequent investigation concluded that the complaints were minor, and there had been no serious allegations against her.
The Employment Tribunal found that the school’s actions, which were in breach of its disciplinary policy, amounted to detriments which were materially influenced by the making of protected disclosures.
It concluded that she had been constructively and unfairly dismissed, and that her protected disclosures had more than materially influenced the manager in imposing the detriments.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld that decision. It held that there were several red flags of concern in the way the manager had acted.
These included the speed of his change of view about Heslop; the fact that the complaints did not justify a conclusion of a catastrophic breakdown of leadership in her team; his failure to speak to all relevant colleagues before forming his view of her performance; his emphasis of the negative as opposed to positive matters; and his conclusion that Heslop should leave before an investigation had taken place.
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Oxford Said Business School v Heslop
Employment Appeal Tribunal
11 November 2021