Nurse who blew whistle on race-based shift allocation wins £26k compensation

The nurse brought a claim against Barts health NHS Trust
chrisdorney /

A paediatric nurse who complained about alleged racial discrimination and was banned from booking shifts as a result has been awarded £26,000 in compensation by an employment tribunal.

A tibunal at the East London Hearing Centre found that Miss Panahian-Jand, a bank nurse at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London, was “unlawfully victimised” by staff Barts Health NHS Trust after she suggested that shifts and work tasks were divided along racial lines.

The tribunal found that her complaint had amounted to a protected disclosure and that she had suffered detrimental treatment after raising the issue.

On 11 May 2019, during the night shift, there was a general discussion about shift allocations. The claimant, who is white, suggested that work was divided between groups of white nurses and those with an ethnic minority background. She illustrated her view by drawing a series of triangles with staff initials inside them. This piece of paper was subsequently referred to as the “list”.

The claimant’s manager, Mrs Roberts, understood that she was raising concerns of race discrimination and asked Panahian-Jand whether she wanted to make a formal complaint. She declined, but said she wanted Mrs Roberts to know about her concerns.

On 13 May 2019, a nurse who was not present in the 11 May discussion told Roberts that she was uncomfortable with the “list”. This suggested there had been discussions about it among colleagues.

Roberts told the claimant that if she wanted to make a formal complaint then she should do so, but she should “stop engaging in conversations of that nature”. The claimant told the tribunal that the instruction to stop discussing it on the ward was not explicit.

However, discussion continued among colleagues and more nurses approached Roberts with complaints. She decided that Panahian-Jand had ignored a management instruction to stop speaking about the list and asked that Bank Partners – who allocated shifts to the claimant – restrict her from working on the paediatric ward.

Roberts had not warned the claimant she would be restricted if she continued to talk.

On 30 May 2019 the claimant was told that she was restricted from the children’s ward but could work on other sites at the trust. However, such a decision effectly prevented her from working on any other ward as Panahian-Jand was only qualified to work in paediatric care.

The day after the restriction was imposed, she made a formal complaint of race discrimination relating to how patients and workload were allocated on the ward.

She also accused two colleagues of making racist remarks, one of whom blocked her way during a confrontation in the hospital car park.

An investigation into Panahian-Jand’s complaints was upheld by the hospital and her ban from working on the ward was lifted in December 2019. However, as her grievance relating to the two colleagues remained outstanding, the trust said it would determine a return to work date after a meeting in early 2020. That meeting was missed by HR without giving reasons.

She did not return to work in 2020. It emerged that Roberts was concerned about the claimant’s return to work because of the upset the race discrimination complaint had caused, but Roberts told the tribunal that she had no involvement in the decision to continue with the suspension.

Employment judge Samantha Moor said: “We consider that by restricting her ability to book shifts on Acorn ward the Trust both subject the claimant to a detriment and… treated her less favourably than other bank staff by not making available to her offers of that work. But for the restriction she would have been offered work.

“In our judgment this is a classic case of an employer treating far too severely a person who had raised allegations because they had done so. This is contrary to the expressed aims of its own whistleblowing policy.”

Panahian Jand was awarded £26,083.19 in compensation, including awards for injury to feelings and financial loss.

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