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Did an employee's lengthy suspension ground a claim for whilstleblowing detriment or race discrimination?

Not on the facts of this case, held the EAT in Uwalaka v Southern Health Foundation NHS Trust.

Mr Uwalaka was an agency worker employed by NHS Professionals Ltd, an NHS-owned agency company, which provided his services to Southern Health Foundation NHS Trust. He was suspended following an allegation of misconduct, and thereafter was placed in a state of limbo because NHS Professionals Ltd failed to carry out any or any proper investigation into the allegation.

The tribunal dismissed his claims for whistleblowing detriment and race discrimination. But the tribunal was highly critical of both the agency company and SHF for the way in which he was treated.

The EAT was similarly scathing. The treatment was "appalling". Even by the time of the EAT hearing, almost three years later, neither the agency nor the Trust had taken steps to conclude the investigation and to lift the suspension, the fact of which Mr Uwalaka had to communicate to any prospective employer. Meanwhile his suspension meant he was unable to work for SHF.

However, notwithstanding this shoddy treatment, the tribunal's conclusion that the treatment complained of did not arise from discrimination or whistleblowing was upheld as being open to it on the evidence.

The EAT regretted it was no more able than the tribunal was to help Mr Uwalaka. But it suggested to him that, when he had to disclose the circumstances to a prospective employer, he should provide a copy of the EAT's judgment and that of the employment tribunal - each being available online.

Thanks to Dr John McMullen of Stone King LLP for preparing this case summary.