Our client was employed as an advanced scaffolder working offshore as a foreman. He was instructed by the maintenance team to put up a cantilever scaffold because a crane had broken down. The maintenance team advised that they required a platform to lower food down from the production platform crane. Our client began to construct the platform but was then instructed to alter the platform to allow for a steel container to be suspended above it from the crane.

Our client refused as he believed it wasn’t safe to do so. He explained to his manager that if the crane failed, the scaffold would not take the weight of the container crashing down. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) adviser agreed with our client that the job was too dangerous. Our client informed his manager and was told he would get back to him.

At the end of the working week, our client took his overtime timesheets to his manager to authorise the overtime he had done previously. However, the manager advised him that he would be sanctioned and that he would not receive his overtime payments but did not give a reason when asked why. Another manager suggested that it was due to his refusal to carry out the previous instructions.

Our client informed his union and subsequently raised a grievance which was not upheld.

The employer did not respond until we lodged a tribunal. The employer then agreed to settle the claim for full reimbursement of our client’s overtime and an additional award for injury to feelings.

Whilst our client’s initial grievance stemmed from the fact that the employer owed him overtime payments, they subjected him to a ‘detriment’ by refusing to pay his overtime for having raised genuine health and safety concerns.

"This is a case which highlights that the very presence and vigilance of the union in the workplace is always a useful means of holding employers to account."

Ben Diaz, employment rights solicitor

This case highlights the advantages of being in a union and receiving the support from union representatives and their lawyers when faced with an unscrupulous employer who penalised their employee for raising health and safety issues.

Commenting after the case, Thompsons' employment rights solicitors, Ben Diaz, said: "This is a case which highlights that the very presence and vigilance of the union in the workplace is always a useful means of holding employers to account. In particular, to ensure that unscrupulous employers should not penalise workers for raising valid health and safety complaints.”

For more information about the support we provide trade union members, visit the Thompsons Solicitors trade union website.