Laing O’Rourke accuses Neels Kriek of seeking cash settlement as court throws out claim

A former top Laing O’Rourke executive who claimed the contractor cheated the NHS out of cash has lost his unfair dismissal case.

Neels Kriek, former managing director of Integrated Solutions at Laing O’Rourke’s European business operations, had claimed he was laid off after raising concerns over the company’s business practices, including withholding cost savings from the NHS’ Procure 21 team. On Tuesday, a court in Ashford, Kent, ruled against him.

Laing O’Rourke welcomed the decision, saying: “Laing O’Rourke vigorously defended this claim, which it considered to have been brought in bad faith to pressurise [Laing O’Rourke] to consider an out-of-court settlement.

“That claim was struck out by the tribunal on the second day of the hearing on the basis that it found Mr Kriek did not make any ’whistleblowing’ disclosures. Mr Kriek later withdrew the underlying allegations.”

Kriek refused to comment until the hearing’s written decision in August.

A source close to Laing O’Rourke said the result would deter others from challenging Ray O’Rourke over redundancies and dismissals. “He has offloaded more than 30 senior people in the past few months, but Kriek was the only one who took him on. The decision means there’s little chance anyone else will have a go.”

Last month Building reported that global staff levels at Laing O’Rourke had fallen from 35,753 to about 20,000 as a result of the downturn, in particular in the Middle East.

Building understands that Kriek was on a package of about £400,000 and could have been in line for a £1m-plus payout, although Kriek denies he was claiming that amount.

One source familiar with the case added: “Going down the whistleblower route rather than wrongful dismissal was a higher stakes approach legally, which in hindsight he might regret.”