Whistle-blowing social worker reinstated after employment tribunal

Case highlights employed and self-employed IROs are covered by laws that protect employees who raise concerns about practice

Sutton council has agreed to reinstate an independent reviewing officer who claimed that his contract was terminated because he raised concerns about the authority’s work with looked-after children.

Jon Fayle, a self-employed independent reviewing officer (IRO), had his contract with the London borough terminated in January 2012.

After losing the contract Fayle appealed to the employment tribunal on the grounds that Sutton had ended his contract because he had criticised the authority’s work with a number of looked-after children.

The council denied this was the reason his contract was terminated.

But this week Sutton reached a settlement with Fayle, which includes offering to reinstate him. The deal will also see the authority pay Fayle compensation for his loss of earnings and the injury to feelings, and make an apology stating that his work was of a high standard.

Sutton has also acknowledged that both employed and self-employed IROs are covered by laws designed to protect employees who make ‘whistle-blowing’ disclosures.

Case highlights protection for reviewing officers

Fayle, who also chairs the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (NAIRO), said his case had important implications for both employed and self-employed reviewing officers.

“I am pleased that the outcome of my case has demonstrated the point that IROs, and particularly self-employed IROs, appear to be protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act from arbitrary dismissal or other forms of detriment, for example bullying and intimidation,” Fayle said. 

He added: “This protection for IROs is essential for the wellbeing of children in care, whose welfare IROs are seeking to protect and promote.”

A spokesman for Sutton council denied Fayle’s contract had been terminated because of his disclosures and said the authority had made changes to its IRO service following a damning Ofsted inspection, which was made public last year.

“We are pleased that we have managed to reach an amicable agreement with Mr Fayle. His services did not come to an end because of any challenge he raised in his role as an independent reviewing officer.

“The work of Sutton’s IROs was severely criticised in the Ofsted inspection in April 2012 and since then the council has worked hard to put things right.”

In May 2012, NAIRO wrote to the then children’s minister, Tim Loughton, warning of several cases across the country where IROs believed legitimate challenges were being suppressed, or they were being intimidated, because of issues they raised, or wanted to raise, on behalf of children.

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