Lloyd’s underwriter loses constructive unfair dismissal case

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An employee of a Lloyd’s of London underwriter who was bullied at work has won his case for constructive unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Mr W Vaughan was berated by his manager in an open-plan office and was the victim of “significant incidents of bullying” the tribunal heard.

He successfully sued Talbot Underwriting Services for constructive unfair dismissal claiming that he had resigned after being bullied while senior managers treated him with “coldness”.

Accounts assistant Mr Vaughan told the tribunal that in February 2019 he had been asked to go to a table in the middle of an open-plan floor.

There, heard the Central London Employment Tribunal, he was “berated” by his then line manager – identified in the ruling only as B – in an “extremely shocking and belittling” manner for his work on financial statements.

He was then signed off work for weeks with stress and lodged a grievance with Talbot.

Talbot Underwriting upheld his complaint and concluded that Mr Vaughan had been addressed in a bullying manner. It issued Mr Vaughan’s manager a final written warning.

However, after his return to work in April 2019 under a new line manager, the claimant told the tribunal that Nigel Wachman, then chief finance officer of Talbot, and Sean Callaghan, deputy finance director, treated him coldly, with the ruling stating that they had ignored him when previously they would have acknowledged him. Mr Vaughan said he had been subjected to passive-aggressive behaviour from Wachman and Callaghan.

After doubts were put forward about Mr Vaughan’s performance in August 2019 he offered to resign rather than go through a formal capability process. He eventually resigned in November 2019.

Judge Mark Emery’s ruling stated that no steps had been taken by Talbot to check on Mr Vaughan’s wellbeing “after what had been significant incidents of bullying towards him”.

The judge added: “I concluded that in these circumstances – the claimant being bullied, his clear expression on his return that he could not deal with a formal process and he would rather resign than go through this – was conduct … likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence [that exists between employer and employee].”

Whether Mr Vaughan had contributed to his dismissal was examined by the tribunal, which concluded he had not. Judge Emery said: “His demoralisation was in large part because he had been bullied and on his return to work because he was not treated appropriately by Messrs Wachman and Callaghan. While his performance had dipped, this was not a fault of his, it was in part because of what he was put through and in part because he genuinely was finding some of the new parts of his role difficult.”

Lloyd’s of London has acknowledged over the past year or two that there was an issue with workplace conduct among its underwriter firms with sexual misconduct among behavioural problems it has sought to tackle.

Last year a survey revealed major issues at the institution with 40% of respondents saying they were under excessive pressure to perform, and more than a fifth of respondents saying they had seen people in their organisation turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour.

Lloyd’s has launched several initiatives to try to address these problems.

The level of compensation Talbot will pay Mr Vaughan will be decided at a later hearing.

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