The EAT has set a low threshold for satisfying the public interest requirement in the first appellate case to consider the meaning of the test since it became law in June 2013.
Since 25 June 2013, a whistleblower must make his or her disclosure 'in the public interest', in addition to it showing specified wrongdoing, to benefit from protection against a dismissal or detriment. This case considered what is required to satisfy the public interest requirement.
A senior manager at Chestertons Estate Agents made disclosures on three separate occasions asserting that the company was deliberately supplying inaccurate accounts to its accountant which resulted in lower commission payments to him and 100 other senior managers.
He was dismissed by the company and an employment tribunal found that he had been automatically unfairly dismissed and subjected to detriments by his employer as a result of blowing the whistle. The company appealed the decision, arguing that the disclosure was not in the public interest.
The EAT's decision
The EAT dismissed the company's appeal and held:
Given that this is the first case to be heard by the EAT in relation to the public interest test there is scope for further development but, for the time being, a low threshold has been set.
It is clear that a relatively small group of the public is sufficient for the purposes of satisfying the public interest requirement. Even if there is no actual public interest in the disclosure being made, provided the worker's belief that the disclosure is in the public interest is objectively reasonable, the test will be fulfilled.
It is worth keeping in mind that the public interest requirement only applies to disclosures made on or after 25 June 2013.
For more on the decision please click here.
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