Jinfo BlogCourt ruling offers further protection to whistle

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By Tim Buckley Owen

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Employees who feel impelled to report on malpractice in corporations or public bodies, but are worried about possible dismissal as a result, appear to have received further protection from a ruling by the Court of Appeal in London. In the case of Babula v Waltham Forest College (http://www.lawreports.co.uk/WLRD/2007/CACIV/mar0.3.htm), Lord Justice Ward ruled that, where an employee made a claim for unfair dismissal as a result of having made a whistleblowing ‘protected disclosure’ under the Employment Rights Act 1996, it was sufficient that he ‘reasonably believed the matters that he relied on amounted to a criminal offence, or founded a legal obligation’. The employee did not have to be able to point to an actual criminal offence or to an actual legal obligation in order to claim protection under the law. The Financial Times reported (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/27662d64-d10a-11db-836a-000b5df10621.html) that this should encourage more whistleblowers to come forward because up to now there was an alternative argument that, in order for a whistleblowing employee to be legally protected, an actual offence would need to have occurred or be about to do so. That argument was thrown out by Lord Justice Wall, with the support of his two fellow Appeal Court judges. ‘The purpose of the statute… is to encourage responsible whistleblowing,’ he said.

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