Tribunal Report: whistleblowers are given wide-ranging protection

Last month the Court of Appeal handed down its latest judgement in the long-running case of Aryeetey v Tuntum Housing Association. This case highlights for charities the legal protection provided to whistleblowers

Victoria Willson, solicitor, Levenes Employment
Victoria Willson, solicitor, Levenes Employment

The story

Tuntum Housing Association employed Mr Aryeetey as an accountant. He made allegations about the chief executive. The investigation vindicated Mr Aryeetey's concerns, but found that the chief executive had not been dishonest. The association suspended, disciplined and dismissed Mr Aryeetey. He brought a claim of unfair dismissal, saying he had been dismissed because he had blown the whistle (the legal term is "making a protected disclosure"). The association said he had been dismissed for making unwarranted accusations about the chief executive.

The legal decisions

The Employment Tribunal found that Mr Aryeetey had been dismissed for acting as a whistleblower in good faith and on reasonable grounds. His dismissal was therefore unfair. It found he made other allegations in bad faith and cut his compensation by 25 per cent.

Lessons for charities

Making a protected disclosure about any of the following having occurred, occurring or being likely to occur can be covered by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998: criminal offences; failure to comply with a legal obligation; miscarriages of justice; dangers to an individual's health and safety; damage to the environment; or a deliberate attempt to cover up any of these things.

To qualify for protection the person making the disclosure must make it in good faith, reasonably believe the information is substantially true and reasonably believe they are disclosing to the correct person. The type of protected disclosure most frequently encountered relates to a failure to comply with a legal obligation.

Disclosures relating to health and safety can include what might be thought of as minor issues, such as complaints about workstations. Employees and workers are protected from detrimental treatment and dismissal or termination of a contract because of whistleblowing.

Charities should take care when dealing with workers who might have made protected disclosures. Even if the disclosure turns out not to be true, the law grants them wide-ranging protection, provided the person made it in good faith and reasonably believed it to be substantially true.

- Victoria Willson is a solicitor at Levenes Employment, third sector specialists

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