Further decision on whistleblowing “public interest” test
The EAT has overturned a previous Employment Tribunal decision
The EAT has overturned a previous Employment Tribunal decision and held that a complaint about an individual’s cramped working conditions could amount to a protected disclosure for whistleblowing purposes.
In the case of Morgan v Royal Mencap Society, the Claimant had claimed that her cramped working environment posed a risk to her health and safety. The Employment Tribunal in the first instance struck out the claim at a Preliminary Hearing, without hearing any evidence from the Claimant, on the basis that the Claimant would not have been able to satisfy that the disclosure was in the “public interest”. The Employment Tribunal accordingly held that the claim failed.
The EAT reversed the decision. It held that there was a reasonable argument that the Claimant’s complaints may have been made with a reasonable, subjective belief that they were in the wider interests of all employees, even if she was the princial person affected. In that regard, the “public interest” test required for a disclosure to qualify as a “protected disclosure” could be satisfied. The EAT decided that this question of fact should be determined by hearing evidence and that a very high threshold is required for whistleblowing claims to be struck out at Preliminary Hearing stage.