When is whistleblowing in the public interest?
The concept of protection for whistleblowers has been with us since the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
Originally, the legislation required the disclosure to be made ‘in good faith’. But the legislation was amended in 2013 to require that a disclosure be ‘in the public interest’.
The recent case of Chesterton Global Ltd and Another v Nurmohamed looked at what was going to be required for a disclosure to be ‘in the public interest’.
Chesterton Global Ltd and Another v Nurmohamed
The purpose of the 2013 changes, when the public interest test was introduced, was to close a loophole where a worker could have a protected disclosure that just related to his own contract of employment.
In this case, the disclosure did relate to Mr Nurmohamed’s contract. But it also related to the contracts of about 100 others.
Mr Nurmohamed was director of the Mayfair office of the estate agents, Chesterton Global.
He repeatedly raised issues about the company’s accounts. He believed the figures were being wrongly stated to the benefit of shareholders, and to the detriment of about 100 senior managers, whose pay to an extent relied on bonuses and commissions.
He was eventually dismissed and brought a claim of automatic unfair dismissal for making a protected disclosure (‘whistleblowing’).
The question before the Employment Tribunal and the EAT was this:
Is this enough of a group of the public for the disclosure to be ‘in the public interest’?
Both the Tribunal and the EAT agreed that it was.
They also agreed that, while Mr Nurmohamed was principally worried about his own pay, he did have some thought for the 100 others.
What this means for you
Whistleblowing allegations are still reasonably rare. But they often crop up where the individual doesn’t have the two years qualifying period to bring an unfair dismissal claim.
If you’re faced with one it’s worth bearing in mind that, at least as far as the ‘public interest’ test is concerned, it’s only a fairly narrow group of people that need to be affected. And some element of ‘self-interest’ on the part of the individual is not fatal.
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