The claimant managed a sales team. One day during very bad winter weather, concerned about his team driving to meet customers, he emailed his employer's health and safety manager asking what the company's policy was for driving in snow and whether a risk assessment had been done. On receiving the answer that no risk assessment had been carried out, he emailed the manager again the same day, saying that the position was dangerous and asking for formal guidance. A few days later he sent a third email, this time to a member of HR, reiterating his concerns.
The claimant was subsequently dismissed and relied on the three emails as being protected disclosures in a claim of automatic unfair dismissal. (He did not have sufficient continuity of service to bring a claim of ordinary unfair dismissal.)
The first issue was whether the claimant had made a protected disclosure – a disclosure of information which he reasonably believed tended to show that someone's health and safety was endangered. Previous cases establish that the disclosure has to be of information – facts, not allegations or expressions of opinion.
The EAT upheld the Tribunal's decision that although the individual emails on their own might not be disclosures of information, taken as a whole they could be classed as a protected disclosure and the claim could therefore go ahead. In particular, the recipient of the third email would have been aware of the previous two, so they could be regarded as "embedded" in the final one to form a disclosure of information. Whilst the claimant was undoubtedly expressing an opinion, he was also telling his employer that the health and safety of his team was (in his opinion) at risk.
The claim can now go ahead; to succeed the claimant will have to show that his dismissal was a result of making the protected disclosure.