The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the “Act”) aims to protect employees who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace. Under the Act, an employee can make a protected disclosure to, among others, an employer, a prescribed body or a prescribed person. A protected disclosure means disclosure of relevant information, which in the reasonable belief of the employee, tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings and comes to the attention of the employee in connection with their employment.
Having regard to the similarities between the English legislation in force and the Act, it may be useful to briefly refer to a recent decision under the English legislation, which might give employers some concern as to how Irish cases may be dealt with in the future.
In Small v Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust, Mr Small, a project manager in the estate management department of an NHS Trust, had made disclosures relating to the risk of asbestos in a property owned by the NHS. Mr Small had been engaged by the NHS on a temporary basis but had understood that he would eventually be offered full-time employment. Instead, Mr Small’s engagement was terminated on making the disclosure.
Mr Small gave evidence that, despite applying for six-hundred new jobs, he had struggled to find new employment and argued that he was suffering a loss extending into the indefinite, partly due to the stigma associated with the disclosure.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Mr Small significant compensation for losses as a result of a failure to obtain alternative employment following the period for which the claimant would otherwise have remained employed by the NHS.
The English Court of Appeal’s decision in this case acts as a useful reminder that employers should deal with employees making a protected disclosure very carefully – or otherwise potentially risk substantial damages claims.
Printable Version: InBrief – Protected Disclosures – Damages
The material contained herein is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. All rights reserved. If you require advice or further information, please contact Barry Crushell, Carmel Byrne, or your usual Aperture Partners contact. ©Aperture Partners 2017.