Private interests covered by whistleblowing
Chesterton Global Ltd v Nurmohamed
Cast your minds back and you might recall our report of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in this case.
Mr Nurmohamed had been dismissed from his job at Chestertons after having reported alleged commission-related irregularities in the accounts. Did he qualify for whistleblowing protection (which requires a person to reasonably believe that their disclosure is made in the public interest) when issues he had identified were only really of interest to a group of about 100 managers including himself?
The EAT had said yes, this was whistleblowing, and the Court of Appeal has now agreed. Something that is in an individual’s private interests can also be in the public interest. Key to this is the employee’s reasonable belief at the time that disclosure is in the public interest, relevant to which could be:
(a) the number of people in the group whose interests were served by the disclosures;
(b) the nature of interests affected and the extent to which they are affected by the wrongdoing disclosed;
(c) the nature of the wrongdoing disclosed (deliberate wrongdoing is more likely to be in the public interest than inadvertent wrongdoing affecting the same number of people); and
(d) the identity of the alleged wrongdoer; the larger and more prominent they are, the more likely their activities are to be in the public interest.
So, where a disclosure relates to a breach of a worker’s employment contract, and where the interest in question appears to be personal, it may nevertheless (but won’t always) be necessary to treat the disclosure as whistleblowing.