USS whistleblower Jane Hutton withdraws unfair dismissal claim

Warwick statistician drops employment tribunal case without settlement

May 19, 2022
Jane Hutton

A former director of UK higher education’s largest pension scheme has withdrawn her case for unfair dismissal midway through a tribunal.

Jane Hutton dropped her case against the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) on 19 May after two days of intense cross-examination.

Bill Galvin, the chief executive of USS, and Sir David Eastwood, its former chair, were due to begin giving their evidence at the tribunal before it was announced that the case had been withdrawn.

It is understood that the decision was taken by Professor Hutton and no settlement agreement had been made between the parties. USS has declined to pursue Professor Hutton for its costs.

“This entire course of events has been deeply regrettable. Professor Hutton’s unilateral decision to withdraw her claim is a sensible one,” a USS spokesman said.

Professor Hutton had waited nearly three years for the claim to reach tribunal stage, beginning proceedings shortly after she was removed from her post as non-executive director in October 2019.

She claimed she was “unlawfully removed from office by reason of my making protected disclosures”. While in post, she was found to have passed information about alleged errors in calculating the size of the scheme’s deficit to the regulator, the media and representatives of the joint negotiating committee that makes decisions about academic pay and conditions.

The University of Warwick statistician – who was nominated as director by the University and College Union (UCU) – said that during the valuation process, members were assumed to be retiring earlier than was the case, which would have meant the deficit was overestimated. As a result of the valuation, both member and employer contributions were raised and Professor Hutton claimed her disclosures were in the public interest after saying she was ignored by her fellow trustees.  

USS had disputed the claim, saying an investigation had found Professor Hutton had broken her contractual duties. It provided evidence to the tribunal that her claims about the valuation were investigated and the processes were found to be robust.

The future of USS pensions has been the subject of a long-running industrial dispute between the UCU and employers, with 13 days of strike action that have already been held this year set to be followed by a marking boycott and further walkouts.

It is not yet known how much the pension fund spent fighting the case but its accounts for 2019-20 showed its legal bill increased by £1.5 million that year.

Professor Hutton has been contacted for comment.

tom.williams@timeshighereducation.com

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