29 October 2010 #Employment
Under the whistle-blowing rules, an employee is protected from being subjected to a detriment or being unfairly dismissed for making a protected disclosure. However, what disclosures can qualify for protection? Section 43B(1) ERA sets out 6 categories of subject matter about which a protected disclosure can be made.
Easwaran -v- St George`s University of London, looked at the detrimental treatment that an employee claimed he had received as a result of making a protected disclosure. This case usefully sets out guidance for assessing what constitutes a qualifying disclosure.
The Claimant had a dispute with a colleague regarding a window being left open in the room where they both worked. The Claimant alleged that he was in danger of contracting pneumonia - the Claimant was a doctor. Senior management was subsequently advised of the dispute and the Claimant wrote a letter to them stating that the windows being left open was detrimental to his heath and to the health of others.
Was the letter classed as a protected disclosure? The Tribunal held that it was not.
The EAT looked at 3 essential questions arising under section 43B of ERA to establish a protected disclosure:
The letter did disclose information to senior management and the EAT was able to find that the employee believed that his employers were in breach of a legal obligation. However, the EAT held that not only was it wrong that the employee`s belief that the working conditions could cause pneumonia, it was also unreasonable. The Tribunal`s decision was upheld.