whistleblowing in the workplace

Mary Gavin

07 May 2015

Whistleblowing is formally known as 'making a disclosure in the public interest'.

Whistleblowers are workers who disclose a malpractice in the workplace.  What is malpractice? Malpractice relates to criminal offences, failure to comply with a legal obligation, miscarriages of justice, threats to people's health and safety, damage to the environment.  Whistleblowers are protected from losing their job and/or being victimised as a result of what they have uncovered and made public.

A recent employment appeal tribunal in England has confirmed that a contractual dispute between an employer and a group of employees can amount to “a disclosure in the public interest”?  In the case of Chestertons v Nurmohamed UKEAT/0335/14, the whistle-blower made a protected disclosure that the employer was deliberately misstating £2-3million of actual costs and liabilitieseffectively driving down the bonuses for him and 100 senior managers which was a breach of a legal obligation to them. The employment tribunal found that the disclosure was made with a reasonable belief that it was 'in the public interest', and the Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision. The case was concerned with what was meant by “public interest” and in this instance 100 or so employees it affected were considered to be the public.   The EAT stated that an individual contractual dispute would not normally satisfy the public interest test but a disclosure relating to a relatively small group of people may do so.  If you have any queries regarding whistle-blowing or protected disclosures, please contact Gerry Daly at gdaly@fhanna.co.uk or Mary Gavin at mgavin@fhanna.co.uk.