A public interest disclosure – sometimes called a whistleblowing disclosure – can afford the employee or worker making it legal protection from detrimental treatment, and the employee protection from unfair dismissal.
An employee or worker may make a disclosure that qualifies for protection if they, in their reasonable belief, consider the disclosure to be in the public interest and disclose to their employer information that tends to show one of the relevant failures has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.
A relevant failure is defined as: a criminal offence, breach of a legal obligation, miscarriage of justice, danger to health and safety, damage to the environment or deliberate concealment of any of those.
In circumstances where an employee or worker has made a qualifying protected disclosure – or has “blown the whistle” – the individual employee or worker has legal protection from detrimental treatment that is influenced by the protected disclosure and employees have legal protection from being dismissed for the sole or principal reason of the making of the disclosure.
It is important that employers deal with their employees and workers disclosures under a formal Whistleblowing Policy, so that any disclosures that qualify as protected disclosures can be identified and the employer can take steps to ensure that those individuals are not treated detrimentally or dismissed for having made the disclosure. Training of all staff on the whistleblowing policy is important to reduce the risk of staff exhibiting conduct that may contravene the whistleblowing protections, and for which the employer would be found to be vicariously liable.
It should be noted that any dismissal for the sole or principal reason of the employee making the protected disclosure will be automatically unfair and so not subject to the statutory cap on compensation in ordinary unfair dismissal claims.
At Hanne & Co our Employment Law team can provide a tailored Whistleblowing Policy for use in these circumstances. We can provide advice to the employer on any protected disclosure matter or claims for whistleblowing detrimental treatment or dismissal. Whistleblowing claims are becoming more common and can be complex and difficult to defend, please give us a call if you think we can be of assistance.