An employment tribunal judge heard that a report into Sellafield’s HR department identified “systematic failings” already highlighted by a former consultant, who claimed her contract was terminated after raising bullying concerns.

Chris Milsom, who was representing Sellafield’s former diversity and inclusion consultant Alison McDermott at a remote hearing of Manchester’s Employment Tribunal yesterday, said more than 50 people were observing the proceedings because the “working culture of Sellafield was notorious” and that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which oversees the nuclear firm, had been at the centre of criticism by select committees.

He quoted allegations of sexual harassment by workers, including one who was asked “what colour knickers she was wearing”.

“Despite just three per cent of the workforce being BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic), experiences they take to the table include walking away from the canteen because of jokes using the n-word and examples of Islamophobia,” said Mr Milsom.

But Deshpal Panesar, representing Sellafield Ltd and Heather Roberts, who was human resources director at Sellafield at the time Mrs McDermott left the nuclear firm, said the amount of observers was simply due to the importance of the matters discussed.

Mrs McDermott submitted a whistleblowing and victimisation claim to the Employment Tribunal against Sellafield and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority after her contract was terminated in 2018.

She applied to strike out responses in her case by Sellafield, the NDA and Ms Roberts.

While arguments were heard from all parties before Employment Judge Marion Batten, a judgement will be released in due course.

Mr Milsom, said that a report carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and commissioned by the NDA after Mrs McDermott left the firm, found significant faults in the HR department.

“Investigating change, inclusion and diversity was rather cosmetic at Sellafield, there was a sense of looking at things, producing a report and then doing very little about it. Why was nothing done about what was found in the claimant’s [Mrs McDermott’s] report, which were also found in the PWC report?”

Mr Milsom also said that Sellafield quoted financial reasons for terminating the contract, however Mrs McDermott’s role had not been identified among those to go in papers provided by Sellafield and the NDA.

He said: “There are 19 contracts mentioned for the axe, not one of them is the equality and diversity contract of the claimant.”

But Mr Panesar said there had been issues with Mrs McDermott’s conduct.

He said: “The claimant is willing to throw out the wildest allegations, but when they come to be scrutinised, they are withdrawn, what the claimant is trying to do [with her application] is not to look at the evidence.”

Employment Judge Batten heard that an application submitted by Mrs McDermott when she was acting for herself in February alleged that the respondents in the case had fabricated, tampered and falsified evidence, misleading the tribunal.

However Mr Milsom said these submissions had now been superseded by a further application submitted by him on behalf of Mrs McDermott in June, which criticises the approach to disclosure of information by the respondents.

Mr Panesar said that Sellafield believed Mrs McDermott was not “providing good value for money”.

“Multiple employees wrote expressing concerns about the claimant, someone in equality diversion and inclusion, who was excluding positive comments to produce and imbalanced report.”

He added that days before Mrs McDermott’s contract was terminated, HR’s transformational budget was reduced and several cuts were being made to expenditure.

However, an external firm was later contracted to carry out some HR functions for £4.5 million.