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COURT RULES THAT EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNALS MUST BY MORE OPEN

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A high court judge yesterday lifted the veil of secrecy from 100,000 unfair dismissal, sex and race discrimination ...
A high court judge yesterday lifted the veil of secrecy from 100,000 unfair dismissal, sex and race discrimination and other tribunal claims brought by employees each year, reports The Guardian (p8).

Mr Justice Jackson ruled that full details of claims filed at at employment tribunals should be open to inspection. He held that the central office of the employment tribunals acted unlawfully in allowing access only to the names of the parties and a bare description of claims.

He said that parliament had laid down in the Employment Tribunals Act that the public had the right to inspect particulars of cases.

He said: 'As a matter of public policy, litigation should be conducted under public gaze and scrutiny.'

The ruling is a victory for the whistleblowers' charity Public Concern at Work. The charity wanted details of claims brought by whistleblowers alleging victimisations, so it could monitor how the Public Interest Disclosure Act is working.

The Act, which came into force last summer, protects whistleblowers against sacking and allows them to bring victimisation claims.

Guy Dehn, director of Public Concern at Work, said: 'This case shows how easy it is for public officials to think that administrative convenience trumps other public interests.

'The fact that this can happen even when parliament has provided otherwise demonstrates why it is so important that the freedom of information bill is strengthened by the house of lords.'

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the judge had granted permission to appeal and the tribunal service was considering appealing.

Meanwhile, The Times Education Supplement (p2) reports that three members of staff at a Wawickshire comprehensive school have lodged claims against the county council for constructive dismissal.

But Rosemary Powell, Kristin Watkin and Dianne Elliot, who all worked at Ashlawn school in Rugby will not know for months whether they have won compensation.

Mrs Powell, who was the school's secretary for 18 years, told a tribunal she was hounded out of her job by the headteacher, Peter Rossborough and senior management.

But Carolyn D'Souza, for the authority, said Mrs Powell had rejected an 'olive branch' offered by one of the managers and had failed to notify governors how she felt. The case was adjourned until July.

Kristin Watkin told a second tribunal she was harassed and intimidated by Mr Rossborough until she had a breakdown. Her case was adjourned until next month and will not conclude until September.

A third case, in which Dianne Elliot will claim constructive dismissal on the grounds that she was victimised by Mr Rossborough, will be heard in October.

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