A whistleblower at Royal Mail who raised doubts about the legitimacy of how some staff were awarded bonuses should be awarded more than £100,000 after an employment tribunal ruled her bosses were guilty of ‘destroying her life’.
Kam Jhuti, heard the tribunal, had been intimidated and harassed by her boss after shadowing a colleague and reporting that some colleagues were “in effect defrauding the company”. She had started working for Royal Mail in London in 2013 after landing a £50,000-a-year role as a media specialist.
Jhuti had suffered from severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder as a result of her treatment after raising concerns of fraud. She was told that if her claims were unfounded her job would be under threat. She retracted her allegations but was told she was performing poorly and made to attend weekly meetings with her manager.
Jhuti’s concerns about bonuses were later validated by an expert, yet despite being vindicated she was put on a six-week performance improvement plan and told that if she did not comply she would fail her trial period.
A doctor eventually signed her off with work-related stress, anxiety and depression. She never returned to work and embarked on a seven-year legal battle, part of which involved a 2019 ruling in the Supreme Court that she had been unfairly dismissed.
It ended, after a number of appeals by Royal Mail, with a compensation order for £109,065, including £12,500 in aggravated damages for what the tribunal described as her employer’s “high-handed, malicious, insulting and oppressive” conduct.
Richard Baty, the employment judge, said: “While as a rule we try to avoid language which might be deemed intemperate, it is nonetheless true to say that [Royal Mail’s] treatment of [Jhuti] has destroyed [her] life”.
The judge said in a ruling earlier this month that expert medical evidence had concluded that a resolution of the legal claim was “necessary as a prerequisite to Ms Jhuti beginning to make any sort of recovery”.
He added that if the Royal Mail had “any shred of decency in the light of the catastrophic impact on the claimant of its treatment of her, it will ensure that this process is swiftly completed”.
The award was made up of personal injury (£55,000), injury to feelings (£40,000) and aggravated damages (£12,500).
Royal Mail said in a statement after the ruling: “It is a complex and lengthy decision which we are still reviewing. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”
For Simon McMenemy, managing partner at Ogletree Deakins, the judgment shows that when an employer retaliates against an employee who raises a legitimate concern and the employee suffers as a result, “the employer will pay the price for their actions – literally. Whereas normal unfair dismissal compensation is capped at one year’s salary, which in this case would have been around £50,000, there is no such limit for whistleblowing claims.
“This is in the public interest, so as to encourage bad corporate behaviour to be reported. So, where an employee’s earnings potential has been affected by them trying to do the right thing, they can be awarded an amount that compensates them for what they have lost and what they have had to go through in bringing the bad practice to light. In light of this, and what this employee suffered, the award made here is actually quite modest.”