Whistleblowing and protected disclosures: the case of Norbrook Laboratories (UK) Ltd v Shaw
Protection for whistleblowers became a feature of UK employment law following the enactment of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). The protection arises where an individual makes a disclosure relating to a criminal offence, breach of any legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, health and safety issues or environmental issues.
Prior to last June the disclosure had to be ‘in good faith’. Now it has to be ‘in the public interest’. The case of Norbrook Laboratories (UK) Ltd v Shaw looked at the form in which a protected disclosure has to be made.
The Claimant was a sales manager and had sent separate emails to various managers within the business about concerns he had on the hazards of staff driving in snowy weather. After being dismissed, he alleged that his dismissal was automatically unfair because of those protected disclosures.
The question was whether one email in itself had to amount to a qualifying disclosure or whether everything could be taken together. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) said that that was the case. Separate emails sent to different people could all be taken together to amount to a protected disclosure.
In some ways this echoes other cases in other areas of law where an employer as a general entity can be fixed with knowledge even if different people have been told different things at different times.
What this means for you
Do you have a developing situation where somebody might be looking to present themselves as a whistleblower? Then you need to be looking at all of their correspondence. That means complaints and reports taken as a whole rather than looking at each individually. You might need to ask managers and colleagues if they’ve received any reports.
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