10 April 2015 #Employment
The EAT has found that a disclosure can be made in the “reasonable belief that it is in the public interest" even if it relates only to a group of staff as a whole rather than the wider public. The EAT stated that an individual contractual dispute would not normally satisfy the public interest test but a disclosure relating to a relatively small group of people may do so; what is sufficient is necessarily fact-sensitive. Upholding an employment tribunal's decision, the EAT held that it is not necessary to show that a disclosure was of interest to the public as a whole, as it is inevitable that only a section of the public will be directly affected by any given disclosure. A relatively small group, in this case, 100 senior managers, was found to be sufficient to satisfy the public interest test. Importantly, a worker need only demonstrate that they reasonably believed that the disclosure was in the public interest.
The EAT emphasised that the purpose of the introduction of the public interest test was to reverse the effect of Parkins v Sodexho Ltd, so that a worker cannot rely on a breach of his own employment contract where there are no wider public interest implications. In this case, although the whistleblower was mainly concerned with his own position, the tribunal was satisfied that he had in mind the other senior managers, whose income would also be affected by alleged accounting irregularities. (Chesterton Global Ltd (t/a Chestertons) and another v Nurmohamed UKEAT/0335/14.)