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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 48466
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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My question concerns confidentiality. My son discovered he

Resolved Question:

My question concerns confidentiality. My son discovered he was paid a lesser rate than his colleagues for doing the same job and various excuses were given as to why this would be (e.g. he was younger than his colleagues and should expect to be paid less; it was his first job since leaving uni and he should expect to be paid less; he shouldn't have signed the contract if he wasn't happy with the rate offered, etc.). To cut a long story short, he raised a formal grievance and it seems likely the matter will go to an employment tribunal. My son discussed the matter with myself (I used to work for one of the directors that he worked for, but for a different one of his companies. The director would, in fact, discuss the matter with me in work and he gave those excuses to me. I have since left his employment but I am still friends with a colleague that still works there) and I understand he can discuss the matter with me without breaching confidentiality. He didn't discuss it with anyone else at all, including his co-workers. However, I asked my sister for advice as she was in charge of hiring and firing at a company she worked for and is knowledgeable about some aspects of employment law and I also discussed it with my ex-colleague who still works for the director of both the company that I worked for and the company that employed my son (my son has since left his employment too due to the continued runaround and messing about that his employers were giving him). My former employer monitored my friend/ex-colleague's private emails in work for a week and discovered that I had written to her regarding what was happening with my son's grievance. He also saw that I had consulted my sister about the matter (as I had forwarded my sister's message to my friend/ex-colleague). I think my son's employer will now try to use the unethically obtained emails (which had been deleted but he still managed to get them) against him, citing a breach of confidentiality. My son was not aware that I had mentioned the case to my friend. Can he be held responsible for me discussing the case with someone else? Will this prejudice his case?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 4 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.
Before proceeding please note that as I am a practising solicitor, I am often in and out of meetings, travelling between clients or even at court when I pick your question up. This may even occur at weekends. Therefore, I apologise in advance but there may be a delay in getting back to you and providing my advice. Please be patient and I will respond as soon as I can. You do not have to wait here and you will receive an email when I have responded. For now please let me know how long he worked there.

Customer:

He worked there for 15 months.

Ben Jones :

Thanks for your patience. Has your son actually breached any company confidentiality rules himself?

Customer:

No. All he did was tell me about the ongoing problems he was having. The thing is, he put in his grievance, they responded, he then put in an appeal and they then appointed some HR person to deal with it (a third party involvement was not specified in his contract but he hoped this person would be more reasonable than his employers were being). The HR woman rang my son and said she was going to suggest that his former employers pay him the money he felt they owed him and asked him to email the figure to her. He emailed the shortfall in wages and she then came back and said the employer had agreed to pay him and she would put an agreement in the post. When the agreement arrived, it was a 'compromise agreement' with the most ridiculous conditions contained in it. One of the conditions is actually asking for me son to be responsible for anyone at all - either in the past or future - speaking about any matter at all relating to the companies to which both of the directors were associated with. I think they wanted him to sign the agreement, then not pay him, saying that I spoke about them and producing the email that I sent to my friend. He responded that he wouldn't be signing the agreement and the HR woman said, "But you agreed to it verbally." She's even typed across the front page of the agreement, "agreed verbally on 20 May". Its all very under-hand. But the fact is, he has never said anything detrimental about his employers (even to me) and never discussed anything to do with his work with anyone else at all. I've been detrimental about them (to my friend) but he never has. The confidentiality section of his contract appears quite general and doesn't mention whether or not he can discuss his grievance with anyone.

Ben Jones :

Do you think they may try and dismiss him for this?

Customer:

He no longer works there. As noted above, after 6 months of being fobbed off with excuses regarding them underpaying him for holidays and not giving a reason why his colleagues (all of whom were introduced by the branch manager) were paid more than him, he felt he was never going to get answers and felt he wasn't being taken seriously. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January and this, coupled with their continued unfair treatment made him give in his notice.

Ben Jones :

and the only outstanding issue now is the payments he believes he is owed? Or is he making another claim against them?

Customer:

The only outstanding issue is the payments he believes he is owed. But I know he won't get anything if he signs the compromise agreement. Even if he asks for those ridiculous retrospective confidentiality clauses to be removed, I know they will come up with some other technicality to get out of paying it. Irrespective of the compromise agreement, if I have spoken about the matter to two other people, does this compromise my son?

Ben Jones :

No it should not compromise his position at all. He can only be held responsible for his own actions, unless he had specifically instructed you to act on his behalf and through your actions you had breached some of the rules he has bound by. But before they can allege this the employer would need to prove that this was actually the case and that you were acting on his instructions. If you did what you did on your own accord then this is not something that the employer can pin on your son and hold him responsible for

Customer:

That's a relief. That is all I wanted to know. Thanks for your help.

Ben Jones :

You are welcome

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