22 December 2017
Will a disclosure be protected if the worker does not believe it is made in the public interest?
No, was the unsurprising decision of the EAT in Parson v Airplus International Ltd.
Ms Parsons, a qualified non-practising barrister, made a number of disclosures to her employer. She later sought to argue the disclosures qualified for protection and thus rendered her dismissal shortly thereafter automatically unfair for whistleblowing.
The tribunal and the EAT, however, found that Ms Parsons only had her self-interest in mind when making the disclosures, rather than any belief they were being made in the public interest. While a disclosure made in the worker's self-interest may also be in the public interest and thus protected (following Chesterton Global Ltd v Nurmohamed), on the facts these disclosures were not. The fact that Ms Parsons could hypothetically have believed the disclosures were in the public interest did not help her if, in fact, she did not hold that belief.
In the course of the appeal, the EAT acknowledged that the tribunal had erred in finding a disclosure of information about which the employer was already aware could not qualify for protection; it could. However, that finding made no difference to the automatic unfair dismissal claim. The EAT accepted that it was the claimant's conduct, rather than the making of disclosures, which was the reason for her dismissal. The "coincidence of timing" was not enough for Ms Parsons to show the reason for her dismissal was automatically unfair.
With thanks to Daniel Barnett’s employment law bulletin for providing this update.