In Wilsons Solicitors LLP v Roberts, the Court of Appeal looked at the compensation that could be awarded for making a protected disclosure (also known as ‘whistleblowing’).
In July 2014, the claimant, Mr Roberts, a Managing Partner at a solicitors firm, produced a report for the board relating to an allegation of bullying. Mr Roberts later said his report amounted to a public interest disclosure (whistleblowing). In November, the other partners demanded that he resign from his post and then voted to remove him. In January 2015, Mr Roberts gave notice of termination of his membership; he said the other members’ treatment of him made his continued membership intolerable.
Employment Rights Act
The case turned on the interpretation of the applicable compensation provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Compensation for protected disclosure detriment should be “just and equitable […] having regard to any loss which is attributable to the act, or failure to act, which infringed the complainant’s right.” Mr Roberts claimed £3.4 million, most of which was future loss of earnings.
Protected disclosure legislation
The Employment Tribunal struck out the claim, on the basis that there is no concept of “constructive termination” in LLP law. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal found that this was not relevant in the context of the whistleblowing provisions. It would be a question of fact for the tribunal ultimately hearing the case as to whether the claimed losses were “attributable to” the unlawful detriment, if the claimant’s claim were successful.
This case serves as a further reminder that the courts will interpret whistleblowing legislation with a purposive intent: that is, to provide protection to whistleblowers. It underlines the importance of ensuring robust policies are in place and are communicated to employees and workers, as well as taking advice should grievances be raised in such situations.
For more information on any of the issues raised in this article or on protected disclosure/whistleblowing in general, contact our Leeds Employment team, by calling 0113 368 7871.