Royal Mail has been ordered to award former media specialist Kam Jhuti more than £2 million in compensation after a tribunal found she had been harassed and intimidated.
In November 2022, a tribunal originally decided that Royal Mail should pay £109,065 in compensation and £12,500 in aggravated damages to Jhuti, after she was ill-treated for raising concerns that a colleague had secured their bonus illegitimately.
The final total was set to be agreed between the parties at a later date.
When Royal Mail and the claimant’s solicitors could not agree on an award, Jhuti requested another hearing. This resulted in an award of over £2 million.
If awarded, it will reportedly be the highest ever payout the postal service has given, but Royal Mail has said it plans to appeal the amount.
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Simon Jones, director of HR consultancy Ariadne Associates, said the size of the award is due to the extremity of the case.
Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “These are the sorts of figures that scare employers about the tribunal system, so it is worth remembering that this was a particularly extreme case which, it appears, has wrecked the claimant’s career and caused her long-term psychological damage.”
The case dates to September 2013, when Jhuti was employed by Royal Mail as a media specialist.
The following month, she began to suspect a member of her team was breaching the company’s bonus policy, which Jhuti said helped the colleague effectively defraud the company.
She raised the issue with her manager who began an extended bullying campaign against her.
During this time, Jhuti was repeatedly told she was falling short of the requirements of her role and harassing her in regards to her performance.
An expert in the business later confirmed Jhuti’s allegations were correct, and media specialists at the company were handling bonuses inappropriately.
Eventually in March 2014, Jhuti was signed off with work-related stress, anxiety and depression, and never returned to work.
She told the tribunal she was left suffering from post-traumatic stress and severe depression and has not been able to work since losing her job because of her mental health.
Jhuti was invited to accept three months’ pay and subsequently a year’s salary to leave Royal Mail.
Aisling Foley, solicitor in the employment team at law firm SAS Daniels, said Royal Mail’s investigation into whether Jhuti should be dismissed was inadequate.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Employers need to ensure that their managers are all trained in how to properly carry out and hold investigations and disciplinary hearings.
“Failure to follow correct processes can quite easily lead to a tribunal claim, so it is of utmost importance that those in senior positions understand how to do a thorough job.
“Just scratching the surface of the evidence will not be good enough.
“Employers should also ensure they are very clear in their decision-making and how this is communicated, so that there is no ambiguity as to the decision they have made and why it has been made.”
Jones said there are some key learning points for HR professionals from this case.
He said: “Here’s what we can learn from this long running saga: failing to act on bullying, and sacking someone on a pretext, can have major financial consequences for a business.
“And allowing the tribunal to set the compensation figure, rather than negotiating it when you know you have lost, is a very risky strategy.“
Speaking to HR magazine, a Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail has a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment or discrimination of any kind.
“We value the work and commitment of all individuals who work in our business.
“This is a long-running case that relates to matters arising a number of years ago.
“We accept that in this case we got some things wrong, and we apologise for that.
“We continue to appeal against the size of the award and how it has been calculated, while seeking to make an interim payment to Ms Jhuti.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”