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Is this whistleblowing? How to proceed.

(21 Posts)
MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 19:00:54

I am a hairdresser. We have not had a staff room for the 2.5 years that I have worked there but talks of a refurbishment have been promised on a regular basis. Hours have recently been increased to pay back hours that we allegedly underworked and everybody is tired and could do with a place to rest and eat. After a complaint from a customer, we were told not to eat in the only private area available. We were told to take breaks outside of the salon or in the unlit, filthy stockroom. After raising this concern with my manager and no moving forward, I contacted environmental health. We had a visit yesterday and he reported that the salon does need a rest area and other issues on Black mould, emergency exits blocked and general lack of health and safety. The management given 1 week for some issues and 3months for others. The receptionist called head office to give heads up to the report.
The same day there was various calls from head office and the GM to say: we shouldn’t have allowed access, the environmental officer is not who he says he is and a relative of an employee and who is the culprit within the salon who made the complaint.
Now, everyone within the salon knows it was me including my manager, I have text messages to show I raised the complaint and she had forwarded it. But my worry based on previous events within the company would suggest that if they found out it was me, my employment would be terminated or I’d be bullied until I left. I’m concerned that the constant questions to my manager will pressure her enough to reveal who it was. I know that if the worst happens and the C.E.O dismisses me or makes my employment more difficult I can take it to a tribunal but my concern is firstly: I don’t have any funds for a court case.
And secondly: I need to have proof that the employer knew it was me. Surely the only proof would be if I admitted it upon questioning?
The likelihood of being interrogated by the general manager or hr is extremely high and the chances of colleagues admitting it was me are equally high. The C.E.O, GM and head of Hr will be coming on Wednesday. I’m not sure what the best option is when that time comes. To keep anonymous or admit and face the consequences?

OP’s posts: |
flowery Sun 14-Oct-18 19:47:31

Your manager knows it was you therefore your employer knows it was you. If HR are remotely competent they will tell the CEO that dismissing someone for raising a health and safety concern would be automatically unfair.

HoleyCoMoley Sun 14-Oct-18 19:51:28

Did the environmental health really visit and make a report, or was it someone pretending to be. Sorry to sound dim, I am a bit confused, what are you being potentially accused of.

Longdistance Sun 14-Oct-18 19:53:53

Do you have legal cover on your home insurance? Use this as this includes employment disputes and would include a solicitor.

Sacking someone who raised a H&S concern and back practice is just bad form, and shows that the company is not worth its salt. Do you really want to continue working for them?

MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 20:19:10

Yes, it was environmental health and the same guy I had emailed. He said he would and could not disclose the complainant but it would be obvious it was an employee.
I don’t have Home insurance. I had no idea how bad some of the health and safety standards were, I just wanted a staff room! Although all my colleagues were supportive of me reporting the issue, now that they are being told we may be closed down due to the person who complained and we are talk of all the other salons within the company, the staff are worried and slightly annoyed at me. That’s a separate issue though as they are just young girls who want an easy life. I will be leaving once the storm has cleared (or if I am sacked) due to the disregard and witch hunting rather than concern for the workplace and staff. I’m actually really petrified of denying I was the complaintant and they already know or just lying to my seniors. I’m equally scared of telling the truth though I know it was very justified. We had a complaint to head office from a client seeing us eating in the colour mixing room, which is the only private area so it’s not too far fetched that a customer made a report.

OP’s posts: |
HoleyCoMoley Sun 14-Oct-18 21:07:13

Is this part of a chain of hairdressers or a small private group. You raised a genuine concern, e.h.o. followed up on it and as a result of his report is saying you are all working in unsafe conditions.i would be looking for another job, it sounds awful, if they close it down so what, you are worth more than that. You can contact ACAS for advice but I wouldn't worry too much, it sounds like you did the right thing as long as you did it for the right reasons and not out of spite. It's the managers job to make sure the workplace is safe for staff and customers, if they don't then how could they sack you. Look up the raising concerns, whistle blowing and bullying website on ACAS.

MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 21:27:17

Thank you Holey. It certainly wasn’t malicious as I really enjoy the workplace, ongoing management and hours around childcare. I have spoken to Acas and they said it was impartial advice so couldn’t comment on the best resolution of what I should do but if I admitted it was me upon questioning and was sacked, that there is a strong likelihood I could take it to a tribunal under the whistleblowing act. It is a chain of hairdressing salons and I couldn’t imagine having the strength or funds to take legal action If I was dismissed. Also, I have no contract to go through the grievance procedures, code of conduct or whistleblowing policy with anyone. I’m have never requested it, despite other employees having a contract as i have been told it specifies not working within a 3 mike radius for 3 months after leaving the company and I don’t drive and not convinced I could easily get any other job aside from hairdressing in short notice as it’s all I’ve decided be for the last 12 years. My current manager started the same week as me as a stylist and has had no training aside from payroll so had no idea about the concerns now raised

OP’s posts: |
HoleyCoMoley Sun 14-Oct-18 21:37:19

If you have no contract or ever signed anything how do you get paid. Can you be sacked from a job you have no contract with or be stopped from finding local work. It sounds really unprofessional. I'd rather do private work, carehome or hospital work than work for someone who is clueless about running a salon.

MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 21:39:38

There has been three general managers and two salon managers in the time I have worked there and it seems none of them have clocked on to the issues. I had a brief look through the report given to the salon manager and as somebody with no h&s experience, it doesn’t sound like huge issues to fix. No resting area, no boiler cover/blanket?, Black mould and unclean area(professional clean and landlord to fix mould issue) in stockroom, under stocked first aid kit and no appointed persons and some stuff I don’t understand about coosh, handbooks and h&s training.

OP’s posts: |
MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 21:48:16

I have worked in salons for the last 12 years and not had a contract, always got paid. I assumed that I have agreed to most of the terms and conditions by working for the company from r this amount of time. There’s just some specific things about working in a certain radius after terminating employment that I only know through other colleagues that I thought I could leave and say I never agreed to that or didn’t know about it as I never had a contract. I started alongside two other staff members and I was the only one who didn’t receive one so I think that was an oversight on their part and I never spoke up.

OP’s posts: |
MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 21:53:06

So do you think I should I say to the seniors who visit on Wednesday, that yes, I reported concerns?

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Fredathetortoise Sun 14-Oct-18 22:04:37

Most employees are entitled to a written statement of your terms and conditions of employment - see Acas website www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1577

Are you definitely employed? Or are you a self-employed hairdresser who rents a chair in the salon? (I understand the latter is fairly common). Do you get payslips, and is tax and NI deducted?

Employed vs self-employed will make a difference your rights if they decide to get rid of you.

MoBro Sun 14-Oct-18 22:10:31

Thanks. Yes I am employed with NI and tax deducted plus payslips.

OP’s posts: |
daisychain01 Mon 15-Oct-18 05:29:29

OP the fact is the salon is contravening many of the expected minimum standards under Health & Safety at Work Act, whereby employers are expected to provide a level of standards to keep their employees safe from harm. Fyi - COSHH relates to safe handling of "hazardous material" eg chemicals you use for perms etc. They need to have given you basic info/training as your employer.

You were concerned for your safety and that of your fellow workers and clients so you sought information from Environmental Health and they exercised their powers to investigate. You did the right thing. If your employer retaliates against you by sacking you over it, they are contravening UK Whistleblowing legislation.

You can take it to Tribunal only if they dismiss you, and if you can prove it was because they retaliated against your decision to highlight the salon.

A source of support is Citizens Advice if that happens. My suggestion is wait and see, but start looking for new work now, especially if you need your wages. Tribunal takes a long time, if you did decide to go down that route, it doesn't help pay your bills in the meantime! And remember you must lodge for Tribunal within 3 months if you lose your job. You can, and should, still get a new job in the meantime.

www.gov.uk/whistleblowing/treated-unfairly-after-whistleblowing

Btw you may not have a written contract but you still have basic rights. If they tell you to walk with no notice then you still have right to fair treatment - best to take legal advice on your specific circumstances.

daisychain01 Mon 15-Oct-18 05:37:50

I was the only one who didn’t receive one so I think that was an oversight on their part and I never spoke up

Please always request your t&cs and some form of contract in future, as it helps protect you in such situations. For example contracts normally state things like notice period, so if they sack you in the spot, no notice payment, it's a very clearcut claim at Tribunal for wrongful dismissal. Double check with thise 2 colleagues what their contract states as you could justify that if you are all doing the same job, your contract is no different. It gives you some clout if the worst happens.

swingofthings Mon 15-Oct-18 07:39:39

Was the health environment person a family member or friend? Not that it makes any difference but might lead to it being you.

All you can do is record in writing absolutely every thing said and done as a diary. This can be very helpful evidence if it gets to court.

Cross fingers they are just venting though and will accept their liability and move on.

IntentsAndPorpoises Mon 15-Oct-18 07:43:31

@HoleyCoMoley a contract doesn't have to be written or signed. It can be verbally agreed and evidenced by the fact the OP has done the job and the employer has paid her.

You do have a right to particulars of employment within 8 weeks of starting.

MoBro Mon 15-Oct-18 09:14:44

No, the guy was the official I emailed from the council, he has no link to anyone. I think the seniors are using scare tactics to make out like they know it’s an employee and putting a lot of blame on the staff and salon manager so that we turn each other (me) in.

OP’s posts: |
RB68 Mon 15-Oct-18 09:33:38

I think here you need to box clever if you do not want to admit to being the person whistleblowing. You do not need to admit and they would be bullying and harrassing you if they did ask and especially in a closed meeting with just you.

My tactic would be two pronged - firstly if they do ask say isn't that irrelevant - the fact of the matter is these things should be in place and the chap from the council only seemed to look at the basics this time, if he comes back and looks again and no action surely he is going to go all in - should we not focus on putting these things right and being within the law rather than trying to get away with breaking the law etc.

I would also say I don't think it matters who reported it - as far as I am aware no one is related to the chap from the council so I don't know what all the fuss is about.

I might also even mention the customer complaint re eating in view etc and how they could easily have raised it if they had been watching or overheard any conversations with staff etc.

I would also chat with the other girls invididually highlighting how important it is for employers to meet the legal requirements and operate a safe workplace, talk about it being their right etc. ie feed them the lines to answer to the management questions especially the one about it being important to safeguard staff, especially where chemicals are used in the workplace, the boiler issue is to ensure that any issues are contained. Eating in a safe place and resting in a safe place are important for health purposes - no one wants to eat in a contaminated workspace (ie where chemicals stored etc)

If you are planning on leaving anyway don't worry too much about the 3 months thing - a) no contract in place therefore standard terms apply rather than works terms so the 3 mth term will legally be outside of that. They are not well regarded in terms of being enforceable in law and gardening leave is preferred (ie you get paid for the three months which also gives you a bit of breathing space).

Should the worst coem to the worst and they suspend you or sack you go for a negotiated settlement immediately (hitting them hard and fast) Find an employment lawyer to write an initial letter outlining the issues, the potential for tribunal and chance of success and then suggest negotiated pay off of xyz as the starting point for negotiating your leaving. I would suggest a 4 figure payment plus 4 months gardening leave as notice (your one month notice and their three month exclusion). They clearly do not have a strong HR dept or any senior management knowledge of the legal requirements.

MoBro Mon 15-Oct-18 10:33:32

Wow, thanks for your time and advice.

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User1011 Sun 21-Oct-18 11:53:50

Saying that the salon may close is just scare tactics to out the whistleblower and to turn the other staff against you.

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