Former Home Office perm sec Rutnam settles constructive dismissal case

Priti Patel spared employment tribunal appearance as ex-official reaches “six figure settlement” over departure from government
Sir Philip Rutnam and home secretary Priti Patel PA

By Jim Dunton

04 Mar 2021

Former Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam has reached a substantial settlement with the government following his resignation last year, which prompted the probe that found home secretary Priti Patel had bullied her staff.

The move means an employment tribunal that had been due to hear Rutnam’s constructive dismissal claim against the government, which named Patel as a respondent, will no longer take place. 

When he made his unprecedented resignation statement in February last year, Rutnam said he had been the “target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign” and did not believe Patel’s denials of involvement. 

Rutnam, whose salary bracket for 2019-20 was £190,000-£195,000, said in his resignation statement that he had been offered a financial settlement by the Cabinet Office but had turned it down to “make a stand” in maintaining the quality of government in the UK.

Rutnam’s settlement has not been revealed, but CSW understands that it is a six-figure sum.

In a statement released by the FDA , which has been supporting the former perm sec, Rutnam thanked the union, former colleagues and his legal team.

“I am pleased to say that the government has today settled the claims that I brought against them and which were due to be heard in an employment tribunal in September,” he said.

“I have received excellent support during this process and I would like to express warm thanks to the FDA and to my legal team, Slater and Gordon and Gavin Mansfield QC. I also want to record my appreciation and thanks to the many individuals, known and unknown to me, who have expressed their support throughout.

“This settlement resolves my own case. The FDA is continuing to pursue in separate proceedings the wider issues that have been raised.”

Last month the FDA launched a High Court challenge to prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision not to sack Patel after an investigation commissioned by the Cabinet Office found she had bullied staff, which is a breach of the ministerial code.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said Rutnam had made a “brave and principled” decision to resign and pursue a constructive dismissal case against the government.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to assist in finding a settlement to his claims,” he said.

The government updated Rutnam’s biography page on the GOV.UK website, saying it regretted the circumstances surrounding his resignation and was “pleased that a settlement has been reached".

A Home Office spokesperson said Rutnam and the government had "jointly concluded that it is in both parties' best interests to reach a settlement at this stage".

"The government does not accept liability in this matter and it was right that the government defended the case," they said.

Glowing praise from Sir Mark Sedwill

The government also published the 29 February 2020 letter from then-cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to Rutnam accepting his resignation with regret and thanking him for his “devoted public service”.

Sedwill wrote: “I appreciate that this has been a decision you have reached reluctantly and I am sorry that despite our efforts this week, we were unable to agree a mutually satisfactory outcome.

“I am grateful for your devoted public service and excellent contribution over the course of your long and distinguished career in the civil service. I am grateful, too, for the commitment and dedication with which you have approached the significant senior leadership roles you have undertaken in the course of your career, particularly as the permanent secretary of the Department of Transport and the Home Office.

“You have ever been mindful of the civil service values, demonstrated in the way you have conducted yourself in your roles. You should be proud of the difference you have made as a highly regarded colleague and a corporate leader upholding our values as the civil service disability champion and member of the civil service board and senior leadership committee.

“On behalf of the civil service, I wish you and your family well for the future.”

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