389: Tribunal awards substantial whistleblowing compensation in Jhuti v Royal Mail
The Employment Tribunal has awarded damages of over £110,000 in the long-running case of Jhuti v Royal Mail Group. This follows the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2019 that Ms Jhuti had been automatically unfairly dismissed and subjected to detriments on the grounds of whistleblowing.
There is no upper limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded in unfair dismissal or detriment claims under whistleblowing legislation. However, compensation for unfair dismissal can only cover financial losses, whereas compensation for detriment can include non-financial damage such as injury to feelings.
When assessing compensation at the remedies hearing, the Tribunal had to consider the unusually severe effects of the way Ms Jhuti had been treated by Royal Mail. The Tribunal noted that she had suffered a lengthy and intense period of bullying prior to taking sick leave and being dismissed. This had left her with PTSD and recurrent episodes of severe depression, contributing to a breakdown in her relationship with her teenage daughter. Medical evidence indicated that Ms Jhuti would never work again due to the combined effects of her illness and the stigma of having been unemployed for six years after her dismissal.
In light of the above, the Tribunal awarded the following elements of compensation:
- Loss of earnings for total career loss up to the age of 67, assuming 2% annual pay increases, with the precise amount to be calculated by the parties’ representatives;
- £55,000 for moderate to severe depressive illness caused directly by Royal Mail’s treatment, taking into account Ms Jhuti’s pre-existing vulnerability to depression but also evidence that this had not previously affected her ability to work;
- £40,000 for injury to feelings, due to the extreme nature of this case and its impact on Ms Jhuti. The upper Vento band, which is used as a guide to calculate compensation in the most serious cases, was £18,000 to £30,000 at the time Ms Jhuti brought her claim eight years earlier. An RPI increase was applied to this band to produce an upper band of £27,000 to £45,000;
- £12,500 for aggravated damages to reflect Royal Mail’s “high-handed, malicious, insulting and oppressive” conduct at the remedies hearing. Most notably, Royal Mail had caused further pain and suffering by not accepting the factual findings of the Tribunal and cross-examining Ms Jhuti as though those findings had not been made; and
- a 0.5% uplift to Ms Jhuti’s total compensation for Royal Mail’s unreasonable failure to comply with the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The Tribunal noted that this breach would normally have resulted in a 10% uplift but considered that this would have resulted in a disproportionate award, taking into account the financial value of the uplift in real terms. This would have amounted to a windfall for Ms Jhuti.
The circumstances of Ms Jhuti’s case are unusually extreme. However, this remedies decision illustrates how Tribunals will approach the various elements of compensation in any successful whistleblowing claim. This case highlights, in particular, the potentially substantial amounts which can be awarded for non-financial loss in whistleblowing cases.
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