Can a complaint about working conditions amount to a disclosure under the whistleblowing legislation?
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered this issue in the case of Morgan v Royal Mencap Society EAT/0272/2015.
The claimant, Mrs Morgan, complained to her employer that her cramped working conditions was having an impact on her knee injury and causing her discomfort. She also complained that her knee injury and her lower back were being strained by cramped working conditions.
Mrs Morgan subsequently brought a claim in the Employment Tribunal alleging that she had been constructively unfairly dismissed and that she suffered detriments for raising concerns.
The matter was listed for a Preliminary Hearing to determine whether the disclosures were in the public interest.
The Employment Tribunal held that the public interest test could be satisfied even if there was no public interest in the disclosure so long as the worker reasonably believed that the disclosure was in the public interest. The Employment Tribunal, without hearing evidence from Mrs Morgan, struck out the claim on the basis that Mrs Morgan’s disclosures were not a matter of public interest and it could not be in Mrs Morgan’s reasonable belief that they were.
Mrs Morgan appealed.
The EAT held that it was wrong for the claim to be struck out in the absence of hearing evidence from Mrs Morgan. The EAT held that it was necessary for the Tribunal to have heard from Mrs Morgan before it considered whether the disclosure was in the public interest or whether the worker making it held that belief, and whether it was reasonable for the worker to do so.
The EAT in this case considered, subject to hearing evidence from Mrs Morgan, that Mrs Morgan’s complaints could potentially meet the public interest test. It therefore allowed the appeal.
This case appears to suggest that a complaint about somebody’s own contract or working conditions can potentially meet the public interest test, provided that the worker held a reasonable belief that it did.
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