Employee wins £137,000 whistleblowing case against construction giant article banner image

South West law firm Stephens Scown LLP has helped a man win his long fight against construction giant Balfour Beatty after he blew the whistle over what appeared to him to be a deception of the Welsh Government.

Nigel McArthur, from Exmouth in Devon, was a regional pre-construction manager at Balfour Beatty.  He worked at the company for nearly ten years and had nearly 40 years’ experience in the construction industry.

Balfour Beatty tendered in 2014 for an £18.5 million construction project at Callaghan Square in Cardiff which would be paid for out of public funds by the Welsh Government.  But Mr McArthur became aware that his employer would be making much greater profits from the work than they had submitted to the client.  Balfour Beatty had informed the Welsh Government that their profits would be 3.3% of the total cost of the job.  But in fact they had not submitted the lowest quotes received from sub-contractors and would be making an extra £768,000.  By hiding their true costs, they would in reality be able to make 7.34% in profits, which they did not declare.

Mr McArthur established that Capita, who had been appointed by the Welsh authorities as cost consultants for the project, had also been deceived by this apparent sleight of hand and had failed to investigate the figures that were presented to them adequately.

Mr McArthur raised concerns internally through the company’s whistleblowing procedures to his line manager, his line manager’s manager, the company compliance officer and the commercial director who sits on the board – but was met by a mixture of bullying, denial and exclusion.  When it became apparent that the company would not be correcting its disclosures to the Welsh Government, Mr McArthur resigned in February 2015.  He began a claim for constructive dismissal through the employment tribunal courts in Bristol, represented by Stephens Scown.

Balfour Beatty finally admitted Mr McArthur’s claim in November 2015, just days before the public hearing was due to start and the compensation judgement of £137,000 was handed down by the court just before Christmas.

Commenting on the case, Terry Falcão, employment law partner at Stephens Scown who represented Nigel McArthur, said: “Nigel has shown immense integrity throughout this case and has had the courage of his convictions to stand up for the truth.  He received no severance pay, has not been working for nearly a year now, and has had to meet considerable court and legal fees out his own pocket upfront.  I am delighted that he has now received this settlement and been entirely vindicated.

“This case clearly underlines that even though many companies have whistleblowing hotlines and model policies and procedures in place, it remains very difficult for employees who speak out.  They need to be prepared to endure much difficulty and stress, and will sometimes be met with outright hostility.

“It is not enough for companies simply to have nice-looking whistleblowing policies in place.  They need to ensure that the policies are actually followed and that their employees and management at all levels of the business understand them, why they are necessary and adhere to the spirit of them.  Otherwise the policies are not worth the paper they are written on.”

Terry Falcão continued: “Where concerns are raised and regardless of whether it appears that the issues raised are significant, if they are about alleged criminality, breaches of legal obligations or breaches of Health and safety regulations for example, companies should seek legal advice at an early stage.  The longer they ignore the issue or if they treat the person raising the issue as a troublemaker, the worse they could be making it in the long run.”