Whistleblowing is defined in Chambers dictionary as “Giving information (usually to the authorities) about illegal and underhand practices”.
An employee who passes on information that he reasonably believes shows:
- that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed,
- that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject,
- that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
- that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered,
- that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged, or that information tending to show any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.
To be protected under law the information that an employee discloses must show a breach of obligation (as above) that is in the public interest. The legal obligation cannot be one that is owed just to a single employee (private interest). For example, it cannot simply be about an employer not paying an individual employee wages they are owed. But if it the complaint is ‘I and my colleagues are not paid money we are owed’ then that would arguably be in the public interest.
“Whistleblowing” claims can be brought from day 1 of employment opening the door to a Claimant who is dismissed after lodging a grievance about a breach of obligation.
We have considerable experience in such claims and in 2009, Employment Relations were involved in two of the leading cases on whistle blowing coming before the Appeal Tribunal. One of them, Geduld v Cavendish Munro Professional Risks Ltd was featured in the law reports and many commentators refer to it as one of the defining whistle blowing cases of the year.
In the other case, Topliss v NCP Services Ltd, now known as NSL, failed in their attempt before the Appeal Tribunal to overturn the Tribunal decision that Mr Topliss had been dismissed for reasons related to public interest disclosure.