Whistleblowing protection extended by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has ruled that whistleblower protection is not limited to workers.
Judge’s whistleblowing claim rejected
Ms Gilham is a district judge. She blew the whistle about the impact of cuts on the administration of justice and alleged she was subjected to detriments as a result. She brought a whistleblowing claim. The employment tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal all ruled she was not a worker and so could not bring a claim. Instead she was an office holder.
Ms Gilham appealed to the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court rules judge can bring claim
The Supreme Court agreed Ms Gilham was not a worker. However, it accepted that under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights she was entitled to enjoy her Convention rights (including her right to freedom of expression) without discrimination on grounds of status. As the legislation did not provide her with whistleblower protection, it discriminated against her in the exercise of her right to freedom of expression. This was because of her status as an office holder and had not been justified.
The Supreme Court ruled that for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation, the definition of worker should be read to include office holders.
The case will now return to the tribunal which will consider the claim on its merits.
The judgment has wide implications and extends whistleblowing protection to individuals who were previously beyond its scope. It is not limited to judges and is likely also to apply to non-executive directors, for example. It may also extend to other individuals deprived of whistleblowing protection, such as volunteers. It could also go wider than whistleblowing and extend to other claims where a convention right is at stake. Religion/belief discrimination is an obvious example where the Article 9 convention right to freedom of religion is at stake.
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