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Rules May Be Rules but Blanket Policies Are Unwise

Some forms of misconduct may appear so serious that dismissal is the only option. However, one case in which a hospital radiographer was sacked for mishandling confidential patient information showed that blanket policies are rarely a good idea and that room should be left for considering each case on its own facts.

The woman had used confidential information in compiling her defence to a disciplinary charge. The manager who summarily dismissed her took the view that she had shown a complete disregard for the importance of patient confidentiality and that, regardless of any extenuating circumstances ‘a breach is a breach’. Her internal appeal against that decision was subsequently rejected.

In upholding her unfair dismissal claim, an Employment Tribunal (ET) noted that she had felt isolated at the time and was unaware that, by taking steps to defend herself, she was breaching patient confidentiality. By his rigid adherence to the rules, the manager had placed himself in a straitjacket and the appeal procedure had been wholly inadequate.

In rejecting the employer’s challenge to that ruling, the Employment Appeal Tribunal could find no fault in the ET’s conclusion that that the woman’s dismissal fell outside the band of reasonable responses to her misconduct. Other issues in the case, including as to whether the dismissal was also wrongful and whether there had been any contributory fault on the woman’s part, were sent back to the same ET for further consideration.

Whistleblower Finally Wins Case Against HSBC After 13 Years

After thirteen long years a whistleblower has finally prevailed in his case against HSBC banking group. This ruling will lead to a £4 million financial award getting distributed across 6,700 people who previously held credit cards with either HFC Bank or John Lewis Financial Services; both of which became part of HSBC after a merger in 2003.

Solicitor Nicholas Wilson, 59, has been relentless in his goal of pursuing a case against HFC, which he always stated were responsible for mistreating credit card holders who struggle to make payments.

Mr Wilson of Hastings, Easy Sussex always asserted that the HFC’s actions were illegal in regard to dealing with card charges, and although The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reviewed his case on a previous occasion, this second hearing ruled that between 2003 and 2009 clients in debts were indeed subjected to an unfair referral in which their debt was increased by 16.4% of the balance amount, which HFC called a “debt collection charge”.

Mr Wilson “lost everything” in his pursuit of justice against HSBC. He lost his job as a solicitor at the firm he worked for, and now repossession of his personal property is underway. He also believes his whistleblowing caused to him being sacked in 2006 by the law firm he worked for. He asserts that major figures of the financial and political worlds “closed ranks” to protect their own interests from scandal.

His case against HSBC began when he worked as a solicitor to investigate whether HFC were unfairly charging customers. His complaint to the Financial Services Authority, the FCA’s predecessor, was rejected as the organisation ruled the issue was outside its authority.

It was only when Mr Wilson later contacted the Office of the Complaints Commissioner with his concerns that the issue was fully addressed. In December 2015 the Commissioner acknowledged the charges and criticised the FCA for showing behaviour of a “negligent” nature that was “bordering on the farcical”.

Under pressure from the Office of the Complaints, the FCA was forced to conduct a deeper enquiry into the HFC’s actions and found that approximately 6,700 HFC customers had paid all or some of the debt collection fee they were unfairly charged for, and were therefore eligible for protection

The FCA has released information of how HSBC has made voluntary plans for a compensation scheme of £4m to be distributed across those customers who have suffered financially as a result of paying “unreasonable” debt collection charges imposed by the bank’s subsidiaries.

This miscalculation has resulted in approximately 350 accounts being overcharged, leading HSBC to announce that “customers will receive redress where they paid more than the actual and necessary cost of collecting their debt.”

HSBC has also promised to credit these customers with an additional 8% interest. A statement has been released:

This is a historical issue, dating back to the period between 2003 and 2009. We have revisited the debt collection charge and, as a result, a small number of HFC and John Lewis Financial Services Limited customers may be due a refund. We will be directly contacting these customers shortly.”

For Mr Wilson, this win does not fully reflect the inaccuracy carried of HFC charges. He believes hundreds of thousands of other customers have also been overcharged, although this has been denied outright by both HSBC and government watchdogs.

Following the tribunal hearing Mr Wilson made the following statement:

After all the abuse and derision about my HSBC allegations, it feels great to be vindicated. But the truth about HSBC is still not acknowledged. There are a great many more than the alleged 6,700 customers. When I left my firm there were 80,000. And that’s just the one firm.”