The Employment Rights Act 1996 (“the 1996 Act”) provides protection for those who blow the whistle in the workplace. The protection makes it unlawful for those who make protected disclosures to be subjected to any detriment or dismissed on the ground that they made the disclosure.
To qualify under the whistleblowing provisions the individual seeking protection must be a ‘worker’. A worker is defined by the 1996 Act as an individual who has entered into or works under a contract of employment, or any other contract (whether express or implied) whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract who is not a client or customer of any profession or business carried on by the individual.
The Supreme Court has recently ruled that a partner in a Limited Liability Partnership was a worker and accordingly enjoyed the protection of the whistleblowing legislation above. In Clyde & Co LLP and another v Bates van Winkelhof, Ms Bates van Winkelhof was expelled from the London based partnership having blown the whistle on the managing partner of a Tanzanian law firm with whom her firm were doing business. Ms Bates van Winkelhof alleged that the Tanzanian partner had admitted giving bribes both to obtain work and even to secure the outcome of cases.
After a three year legal battle over the issue of whether she was a worker, Ms Bates van Winkelhof’s case will now go to the employment tribunal for determination.
This decision is significant and will likely impact on how those working in heavily regulated professions respond to allegations of working malpractices. In her leading judgment, Lady Hale stated:
“That conclusion is to my mind entirely consistent with the underlying policy of those provisions, which some might think is particularly applicable to businesses and professions operating within the tightly regulated fields of financial and legal services.”Jack Boyle Senior Solicitor – Employment Law