More box ticking but this time in relation to complaints made to the employment tribunal where the claimant believes that s/he has suffered a detriment at work or has been dismissed for making a protected disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (a “whistleblowing claim”). Last year there were 1,700 whistleblowing claims. As of 6 April 2010, the claimant will be asked to tick a box on the employment tribunal claim form to state if the claim includes a whistleblowing claim and if s/he wishes the employment tribunal to refer the allegations to the relevant regulator. If so, the tribunal will send either the claim form or extracts from it. The regulator will then assess the information and investigate if appropriate. Both parties will then be contacted by the tribunal to inform them that a relevant authority has been contacted. Given that a significant number of claim forms include personal information about third parties, the tribunal service will have to ensure that any information provided to the regulator is in compliance with its data protection obligations.
This change in the law may be small but it could be important. Claims of this nature usually involve serious allegations of fraud, financial irregularities or health & safety issues which could cause reputational damage even if unfounded. Therefore, the risk of a costly and timeconsuming investigation by a regulator could increase the willingness of employers to settle whistleblowing claims early and at a premium.