Whistleblower receives £1.25m settlement and apology

A former government vet, Dr Tamara Bronckaers, resigned from the Department of Agriculture and Environment (“DAE”) following concerns she raised about animal welfare and traceability in the meat supply of livestock markets. In September 2021 an industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland found that she had been constructively dismissed and the DAE had initially appealed. However, the DAE dropped its appeal earlier this month and Dr Bronckaers received a £1.25m settlement and an apology.

In summary:

  • Dr Bronckaers worked at the DAE for 19 years and was an expert on livestock legislation. She identified serious failings in animal welfare at livestock markets and failings which allowed livestock to be deleted from sections of the tracing systems used to track livestock (animals with fewer moves are more valuable).
  • This could subsequently affect the traceability of meat and monitoring of disease in cattle.
  • Livestock were kept overnight at markets without the necessary bedding, water and food.
  • Concerns were reported to colleagues, including her line manager which was met with no action. Dr Bronckaers was persistent in raising the concerns with emails ignored
  • The tribunal found she was professionally ignored and excluded by her line manager
  • It was also found that behaviour towards Dr Bronckaers was intimidating and dismissive towards her as a professional
  • It was held she was subjected to detriment on the grounds of having raised protected disclosures and unfairly dismissed which was automatically unfair as she was dismissed due to raising protected disclosures

This is a useful reminder that there is no limit on the amount that can be awarded in cases of unfair dismissal as a result of a protected disclosure, which this settlement sum will have taken into account.

If you would like any further information in relation to this topic, please contact a member of the Employment team.

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