A greenkeeper at a top golf club has won nearly £14,000 after an employment tribunal found he was forced out of his job amid a culture of ‘bullying and harassment’.

John Kelly, 53 years old, worked for 12+ years at Prestonfield Golf Club under Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh until he retired in September 2020.

The club charges senior members up to £815 a year in green fees.

The pandemic began in March 2020, and Ian Cowan, club captain, called a meeting “threatening” the three greenkeepers to furlough or put the club into administration. 

The three groundsmen of Prestonfield Golf Club in Edinburgh say they were ordered to take furlough and given just 30 minutes to leave

Three groundsmen from Prestonfield Golf Club in Edinburgh claim they were given 30 minutes to leave after being ordered to take furlough. 

Prestonfield Golf Club is one of the top clubs in the country and members are charged up to £815 a year in fees

Prestonfield Golf Club is one of the top clubs in the country and members are charged up to £815 a year in fees

The men were allowed to leave after 30 minutes and volunteers were called in to help them. 

Kelly was furloughed from June 2020 to June 2020. Kelly raised safety and health concerns about volunteers who had violated social distancing rules. Kelly’s concerns were ignored.

When he came off furlough, he was told he would be managed by Mr Cowan, who told him: ‘Do what you are f***ing told’.

Later, Kelly discovered that the two lockers in which he kept his camping equipment had been broken into and his property was scattered on the ground.

He asked Mr Cowan for an investigation, but was told that he had kept the items at his risk and that no investigation was necessary.

Regarding this grievance, the tribunal stated: ‘No reasonable employer would have disregarded the claimant’s complaints about his lockers being broken into and property thrown all over the place in such a dismissive and disrespectful manner.’

The tribunal heard that Mr Cowan was also angered at Mr Kelly’s refusal of using a method to clean grass-cutting machinery. This would have been against strict pollution laws and could have led to run-off reaching Duddingston Loch.

Mr Cowan threatened Mr Kelly that if he did not comply he would be sent home without pay, if he didn’t ‘do what I f***ing tell you.’

Kelly was relieved of stress on June 11.

All three groundsmen wrote a collective grievance letter in May saying that they believed the club had developed a culture where bullying, harassment, intimidation, and harassment were commonplaces. This has made us feel threatened, scared, and in fear for the future of our jobs. 

In September last year, Kelly informed the Edinburgh tribunal that he was forced to resign after learning that he would be managed by Kelly.

The judge ruled that Mr Kelly could not work with Mr Cowan because of the way Mr Cowan treated him. Mr Kelly stated that Mr Cowan had bullied him, harassed and threatened him with humiliation.

The luxury golf club enjoys tremendous views of Edinburgh landmark Arthur's Seat at the rear of its course

The luxury club boasts stunning views of Edinburgh’s landmark Arthur’s Seat from the rear of its golf course

All three greensmen quit their jobs and the judge supported their claims that Mr Cowan had a ‘plan’ to replace them. It stated: “In reality, that appeared to have been what had happened.”

A judgment, published this week, cited Mr Cowan’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as key to the club being ordered to pay £13,817 in compensation to Mr Kelly for constructive and unfair dismissal, including £7,000 for injury to Mr Kelly’s feelings caused by his whistleblowing.

The tribunal ruled that Mr Cowan was not a credible or reliable witness.

In summation, the tribunal verdict stated: “No reasonable employer would treat a long-serving employee in such contempt or utter disregard.”

Unionline Scotland, GMB Scotland’s legal firm, said that the tribunal ruling showed that employers cannot bully employees or treat them unfairly.

Robert Deavy (GMB Scotland organizer) said that he was pleased with the result. We won’t shy away from challenging bad employers.

Mail Online reached Prestonfield Golf Club for comment.