occupational health nurse has won a landmark case for unfair dismissal after an
HR manager went behind her back and read a confidential employee file.
Leeds Employment Tribunal found in favour of Tracey Cooke on the grounds of
protected disclosure in a case that will impact on occupational health (OH)
staff instructed to disclose the contents of confidential documents on
employees and potential employees.
carrying out paper screening for a prospective employee, Cooke had discovered
the client was a hepatitis B carrier. But following further medical
information, the individual was declared fit for the post.
transpired there were discrepancies over the declared sickness and absence on
the application form and references, but after asking to see the individual
again, Cooke still found that the person was fit for work and the individual
concerned said they were prepared to meet with personnel to discuss the
an HR manager called Cooke while she was out of the office and demanded to see
the potential employee’s health screening form. Although Cooke refused, citing
the Nursing & Midwifery Council guidelines on confidentiality, the HR
manager took the file and read the confidential medical information.
shown the OH guidelines on confidentiality, the HR manager commented that they
were "only guidelines".
three months of the incident, Cooke was dismissed while off work for two weeks
with work-related stress. She took her former employer, West Yorkshire
Probation Board, to court under the Employment Rights Act.
tribunal has found that the principal reason for dismissal was because I made a
protected disclosure," said Cooke.
felt I was being bullied and harassed to share information that I couldn’t,"
remedy hearing to set the award is still to be held.
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