Whistleblowing is an important aspect of employment law in the current age. With more businesses under pressure to cut costs, the number of “dodgy practices” that may be the subject of a public interest disclosure is likely to increase.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act came in fifteen years ago after a series of high profile scandals and disasters demonstrated the need for people to be able to speak out without being victimised. For further background see Whistle while you work? We have been active in this field for a number of years.
We have represented a number of people who have been victimised for making qualifying disclosures that amounted to protected disclosures under PIDA 1998. Sometimes the detriment takes the form of unfair dismissal. That in turn may be actual dismissal or constructive dismissal.
Sometimes there is no dismissal but still a right to claim compensation for victimisation. It's a form of discrimination.
We routinely advise business clients on terms and conditions of employment and handbooks that include whistleblowing policies. We have also acted in circumstances where a whistleblower’s identity was wrongfully revealed.
Whistleblowing Case Study 1
Our client was a carer at a local nursing home. She spoke out about what she honestly believed to be poor standards at her place of work. At first she complained internally to the management but subsequently, after she was ignored and victimised, she went to the statutory regulator, the Care Quality Commission (formerly CSCI).
We took Lily Flurey’s case all the way to a hearing at which an employment tribunal decided that she had been unfairly dismissed as well as having suffered detriment as a result of her treatment before dismissal. For the full story on this case see Lily blows time!
The nightmare recurred for this claimant because her employer tried to take revenge, having been ordered to pay compensation and facing a rare application for costs. He got in touch with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and staged a complaint so that he could then write to the ISA and present his own rather warped view of the case.
Again, we went to a full hearing following which the employer was once more ordered to pay compensation. For the full report of Round 2 see Lily blows EXTRA time!
In the second case we obtained a third party disclosure order against the ISA to obtain the evidence of what the employer had said and written to them to set up the bogus complaint.
In both sets of proceedings we were successful in an application against the employer for an award of costs. This is very unusual in employment tribunal proceedings (though we have achieved five such orders in recent years) and was based upon a finding that the employer had conducted the litigation unreasonably.
Whistleblowing Case Study 2
We acted for a client who found herself in the unusual situation of having done all the right things and made a public interest disclosure to the regulating authority which then mistakenly revealed her identity to the employer she had complained about.
A report was prepared on the basis of our client’s allegations, initially for internal use. It was then to be used as the basis of an invitation to comment, and sent for this purpose to the employer but her name was not removed from the report before disclosure. The complainant was then horrified to be called into a meeting in front of a number of top level managers and confronted with the issue.
She developed serious anxiety and stress resulting in prolonged absence and subsequently departure. We secured compensation for her.
If you have been unfairly disciplined, unfairly dismissed or otherwise victimised for making a complaint or threatening to blow the whistle then we can help. Similarly, if you are an employer facing such a claim or complaint, or wanting to draft policies to minimise the risk, we have the expertise. Contact us now. Email or telephone 01460 200450