by Duncan Bauchop, Trainee Solicitor

A member of staff at a restaurant in Soho, part of the Tamarind Collection group, was deemed by the Employment Tribunal to have been unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing, despite the fact he was due to be made redundant.

The claimant, Mr Ali, an employee of the chain since 2016, sent emails in June 2018 highlighting concerns about the use of chicken stock in items marketed as vegetarian and/or vegan. In addition, the claimant, along with five other members of staff, approached their manager Mr Malik and raised concerns.

When Mr Malik spoke to senior members of staff about the matter, he was told ‘guests don’t need to know what ingredients’ are used in their food and ‘those members of staff need to be phased out’. Mr Malik felt his management’s response was unethical and passed the information on to the claimant.

Shortly after, the chain’s HR consultant made the claimant and another assistant manager redundant. The claimant appealed the decision but it became apparent that the appeal decision had been predetermined, and his dismissal was upheld. The claimant later alerted Food Alert, a food safety agency. The tribunal held that the appeal process was procedurally unfair. They also held that he had been unfairly dismissed.

The respondent highlighted that while six members of staff complained about the chicken stock incident, only he and one other member of staff were made redundant. The respondent claimed this demonstrated the reason for his dismissal was a restructure of the business and not the whistleblowing.

While the tribunal accepted that the claimant was due to be made redundant one month after his dismissal anyway, the primary reason for his dismissal was the whistleblowing incident. As a result, he was deemed to have been automatically unfairly dismissed. However, his compensatory award was limited to one month’s pay, in acknowledgement of the fact that he would have been made redundant within one month of his dismissal date in any event.

A remedy hearing is fixed for September, but the tribunal expressed its hope that parties would reach a voluntary settlement before then.