Employees are entitled to insist that their employers abide by their legal obligations and should never be penalised for doing so. The point was made by the case of a woman who pointed out that a meeting with her boss had extended beyond her agreed working hours under the COVID-19 furlough scheme.
The sales manager was on part-time flexible furlough during the pandemic and, on most days, her agreed working hours were between 10am and 4pm. During a performance review meeting with her boss, she realised that it was about 4.10pm and that they were not even halfway through their discussion. She asked if the meeting could continue on another day at a time within her agreed hours. Her boss became annoyed and angry at that suggestion.
She made it clear to him, however, that she was not prepared to work beyond her part-time furlough hours and that it would be wrong to do so. She reminded him that she and some colleagues were working longer than agreed hours to get the job done and expressed the view that it would be unfair for that to continue. She wanted him to understand that working during time for which furlough money was being claimed from the government was wrong. She was dismissed a few weeks later and lodged Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings.
In upholding her whistleblowing claim, the ET found that she had made a protected disclosure. She had clearly communicated to her boss her belief that continuing the meeting beyond her fixed hours was a breach of the legal obligation to comply with the furlough rules. The ET was also satisfied that her protected disclosure was the principal reason why she lost her job and that her dismissal was thus automatically unfair. If not agreed, the amount of her compensation would be assessed at a further hearing.