Whistle-blowers - managers beware

A recent case involved the complex world of international oil and gas exploration.  Whilst the circumstances of the case are not every day matters for most employers, the result of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) most certainly is.

The claimant was briefly employed by an international oil and gas company.  Two non-executive directors of the company were effectively running the organisation.  The claimant made some whistleblowing disclosures in relation to corporate governance issues concerning the company.

The two non-executive directors agreed that the claimant should be dismissed.  He brought a claim against the company for unfair dismissal.  He also brought claims for detriment against the company and the two non-executive directors personally.  The Employment Tribunal found in his favour and awarded him £1,745,000 which the company and the two non-executive directors were all liable to pay.

The appeal to the EAT failed.  The non-executive directors were held to be personally liable for the detriment suffered by the claimant as a result of this dismissal. 

The case makes it clear that whistle-blowers may be more willing to bring claims against dismissing managers as well as against their employers if only to try to pressure their employer to settle a claim.  The claim against a manger on a personal basis for detriment may allow a claimant to recover an extra sum for 'injury to feelings' which is not usually available in a claim against the employer organisation.

The case is an important reminder to employers to ensure that whistleblowing policies are reviewed and are properly implemented.  An employer must take particular care in the case where an employee is dismissed following an incident of whistleblowing.  As ever, ensuring that all managers are properly and appropriately trained is essential. 

To discuss this or any employment related issue, contact us.

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