The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the “Act”) came into force on 15 July 2014. The Act includes a new form of interim relief where an employee, who claims to have been dismissed “wholly or mainly” for having made a protected disclosure, may apply to the Circuit Court for interim relief. The Circuit Court may, if satisfied that there are substantial grounds for contending that the dismissal resulted wholly or mainly from the making of a protected disclosure, grant an order of re-instatement, re-engagement or an order for the continuation of the employee’s contract, pending the outcome of a claim for Unfair Dismissal. This is the first time that employment injunctions have been directly linked with Unfair Dismissals actions.
Important Recent Case
A recent case, Dan Philpott v Marymount University Hospital and Hospice Limited, is one of the first reported cases in which an interim injunction has been sought before the Circuit Court under the Act.
Mr Philpott was employed on a five year fixed-term contract by the Marymount University Hospital (the “Hospital”), commencing on 6 May 2014. He was made aware that his contract would be terminated on 2 December 2014. The Hospital informed Mr Philpott that his contract would be terminated due to significant interpersonal difficulties between Mr Philpott and other staff members. Mr Philpott claimed that his dismissal was by virtue of making allegedly “protected disclosures” within the meaning of the Act. Mr Philpott sought an injunction to continue the terms of his employment contract pending the outcome of his claim for Unfair Dismissal.
The Judge decided that the employee would be outside the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007, as his contract was terminated within the first 12 months, unless he could prove that he was dismissed due to making a protected disclosure. In this case, despite acknowledging the sincerity of the employee, the Court was not satisfied that the employee had satisfied the tests for interim relief required under the Act.
Employers need to be aware of the possibility of employees seeking Circuit Court injunctions under the Act in support of unfair dismissals claims. This is a whole new area of risk and challenge for employers, especially as the Circuit Court is a lower costs forum than the High Court, with less risk for employees. That said, the Philpott case shows that the Circuit Court will thoroughly scrutinize a case before granting an Order.