Labour Research July 2012

Law Queries


Q. Our employer was operating an unsafe working practice — asking a member to use machinery they haven’t been trained on, without supervision. Our member raised the issue with the safety manager, but was ignored by them. The member then took it up with the Health and Safety Executive. When the employer found out, the member was dismissed. Does our member have a whistleblowing claim?

A. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects people who have made qualifying disclosures from suffering a detriment. A qualifying disclosure under section 43 of PIDA is a disclosure of information, which the worker reasonably believes tends to show that (among other things) a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with “any legal obligation to which he is subject”.

Following the case of Parkins v Sodexho Ltd EAT/1239/00, the courts decided that this even included disclosures about a breach of employment regulations. Your member should definitely bring whistleblowing and unfair dismissal claims.

Please note that the law is in the process of being changed, to reverse the impact of the Parkins decision. Under clause 14 of the draft Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, PIDA will be amended to introduce a requirement that the whistleblower reasonably believes that their disclosure is “in the public interest” — that is, this type of private contractual matter will likely be excluded.