23 April 2014 #Employment
If an employee “blows the whistle”, any subsequent disciplinary action taken can result in a detriment claim or an automatically unfair dismissal claim (if the employee is dismissed). There is no upper limit on the amount of compensation that can be awarded in these cases. This can present difficulties for employers when managing an employee who raises multiple grievances and/or raises a grievance and continues to pursue it even where the matter has concluded. This was exactly the situation in Panayiotou v Kernaghan.
Mr Panayiotou was a police officer. He made disclosures to his employer relating to other officers` treatment of victims. The resulting investigation largely upheld his concerns. However, Mr Panayiotou continued pursue the issue which made him increasingly difficult and time-consuming to manage. In the end, he was dismissed on the basis that he had an incompatible outside business interest.
The tribunal was critical of the way Mr Panayiotou had been treated. However, they found that Mr Panayiotou`s disclosures were not the reason for the mistreatment or his dismissal. The tribunal found that his treatment was caused by his campaign and his employer`s escalating frustration. These events were related to, but distinct from, the disclosures themselves. Therefore, his claims failed under the whistleblowing legislation. The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the employment tribunal`s reasoning and conclusion.
Employers still need to exercise caution when disciplining employees in these circumstances. However, if an employer makes it clear it is the manner of the disclosure and not the disclosure itself that is the act of misconduct, then whistleblowing claims can potentially be avoided.