The Court of Appeal has now considered whether the claimant’s disclosure of an alleged breach of his own contract of employment, which also affected 100 co-workers, could be regarded as in the public interest.
In June 2013 it became a requirement for whistleblowing protection that the disclosure must, in the reasonable belief of the worker, be in the public interest. This was as a result of concern that workers were taking advantage of the legislation to raise issues about breaches of their own employment contract with no wider public interest implications. However, what if the same issue also affects a substantial number of co-workers?
The Court of Appeal has now considered this in Chestertons v Nurmohamed www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/979.html . The claimant, an estate agent, alleged that his employer had manipulated accounts so as to reduce bonuses of himself and 100 other senior managers. The court rejected a ‘bright-line’ rule that it is either always or never enough that a private interest of the claimant is shared by one or more co-workers.
The Court of Appeal said the tribunal should consider all the circumstances of the particular case – including in the present case that the disclosure was of what was said to be deliberate wrongdoing, and the alleged wrongdoing took the form of mis-statements in the accounts to the tune of £2m-£3m. The tribunal here was entitled to decide that it was reasonable for the claimant to believe the disclosure was in the public interest.