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Whistle blowing

Posted by TonyBrownEmploymentSolicitor on January 16, 2014

The issue in the next case was whether several emails from an employee taken together could amount to a whistle blowing disclosure, even though they were sent to different individuals in different departments and taken separately each email was not such a disclosure.

The Claimant, who managed a sales team, sent separate emails to different managers expressing concerns over the hazards of staff driving in snowy conditions. He was subsequently dismissed. Because he did not have the necessary length of employment to bring a claim of ordinary unfair dismissal, he relied on these emails as being protected whistle blowing disclosures so he could bring a claim of automatic unfair dismissal, which did not require any period of service.

The ET held that the emails taken as a whole could be classed as a protected disclosure and allowed the matter to proceed to a full hearing.

The EAT dismissed the employer’s appeal. It ruled that, even though the emails were sent to different people and taken separately each email could not amount to a whistle blowing disclosure, taken together they could because the recipient of the later e mail would have been aware of the previous communications. In any case, in the EAT’s view, drawing a dangerous state of affairs to an employer's attention is capable of constituting a qualifying disclosure of information and the information given in the emails was not too general to amount to a whistle blowing disclosure.

Comment

Employees who report certain malpractices in their workplace are protected against dismissal under the whistleblowing provisions of the Employment Rights Act. Reports of such malpractice are called ‘qualifying disclosures’. The advantage to employees of showing that their dismissal was for whistle blowing is that there is no requirement for a minimum period of employment before bringing a claim for unfair dismissal and there is no cap on the amount of compensation that can be awarded.

What seems to have been important to the EAT’s ruling that the tribunal was justified in considering the emails together notwithstanding that they were sent to different individuals at different times was that the recipient of the later email could have been in no doubt that there had been earlier communications from the Claimant about the danger of driving conditions to sales staff.

If you would like advice about how the issues in this note apply to your situation, please contact Tony Brown on 01225 740097 or by e mail to tony@bathemploymentlaw.co.uk

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