A decision in the Employment Tribunal in which Kate Bleasdale, the founder and former executive vice chairman of Healthcare Locums (HCL), is suing HCL and several former colleagues for unfair dismissal, victimisation and sex discrimination is expected in June.
During last month’s 15-day hearing at Kingsway Employment Tribunals in central London, evidence was heard from Bleasdale and a number of her former colleagues.
Bleasdale’s claim for £12m in damages relates to events in 2010 and early 2011 that led to Bleasdale’s suspension and subsequent dismissal in March 2011, following the discovery of “serious accounting irregularities” at HCL.
Evidence of the irregularities included doctored emails and invoices loaded onto Barclays’ invoice discount system twice, as well as discrepancies between figures in the management accounts and the ‘true figure’.
Bleasdale claimed she informed the HCL board of problems with the accounts, that there had been a cover-up, and that she had been dismissed for whistle-blowing. “I am the only one who when I found out the truth told the truth, and tried to deal with the truth,” she said.
Bleasdale blamed former finance director Diane Jarvis for adjusting the accounts to artificially inflate the company’s earnings. However, it was put to Bleasdale that Jarvis had said that “every figure had been agreed with you”.
Following Bleasdale’s suspension, HCL appointed David Moffatt, then interim chief finance officer, to investigate Bleasdale’s actions. A subsequent disciplinary process by Alastair Liddell, HCL’s former deputy chairman, led to Bleasdale’s dismissal, a decision upheld by HCL non-executive director David Henderson.
Bleasdale claimed she was singled out for being a woman because none of the men working in the HCL finance team were suspended or dismissed. However, Peter Sullivan, HCL’s chairman, told the tribunal: “You were the one where the buck stops. It has got nothing to do with whether you are a man or a woman.”
Bleasdale also questioned Moffatt’s and Liddell’s independence. “I believe the whole process was unfair, prejudiced and self-serving,” Bleasdale said. However, other witnesses said Moffatt and Liddell were the best people available.
During the tribunal, Bleasdale also accused former HCL chairman Alan Walker of sexual impropriety, an allegation that Walker denied.