Ocado has been ordered to pay a former employee £20,000 in damages after judges ruled his resignation amounted to constructive dismissal.

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Thomas Cowley has been awarded £20,000 for “constructive dismissal”

Ocado has faced allegations that managers forced out an employee who raised the alarm over health and safety issues at one of its sites.

The former employee Thomas Cowley, who worked for the online grocer in 2020, alleged there was a “witch hunt” after he pointed out that cardboard and pallets were blocking fire exits and that a conveyer belt’s safety switch was locked with a cable tie.

According to the judgment, which was first reported by the Sunday Telegraph, Cowley was turned down for promotion on three occasions, insulted and made to clean “as a result” of his disclosures.

“All of these incidents were fundamental breaches of the implied term of trust and confidence in the contract of employment, and indicators to the claimant that the respondent no longer wished to be a party to the contract,” the judgement said.

“The treatment afforded to the claimant as a result of his disclosures was the cause of his resignation. This amounts to constructive dismissal.”

Ocado has suffered two fires in recent years – its Andover warehouse was destroyed by a fire in 2019 and a fire at its Erith site in July 2021 cost the business £35m in lost revenue.

A spokesman for Ocado said: “We did not receive notification of this claim at the time. As such, we are currently investigating and have applied for reconsideration. We await this decision and will not be commenting any further at this stage.”