The Court of Appeal has recently determined a case of an employee against the Royal Mail for a whistleblowing unfair dismissal claim.
The employee made a protected disclosure to their manager, disclosing the wrongdoings of a fellow employee. After ‘blowing the whistle’, the employee argued they were forced to retract their allegations and were consequently bullied out of the company by the manager.
A different manager was tasked with reviewing the situation and concluded that the employee should be dismissed, however they were unknowingly misled by the first manager involved, who deliberately only shared half of the story.
The Court of Appeal reversed the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision and held that in order to determine the “reason for the dismissal”, the tribunal must only consider the thoughts of the person authorised to make the dismissal.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeal’s view was that unfair dismissal can only be established if it is the employer that has been unfair. If an individual manager or colleague is unfair, it does not satisfy the ‘unfairness’ requirement.
The Judge was keen to make clear that this case did not prevent the employee from claiming compensation for an unlawful detriment, but this was not an issue the Court of Appeal was called to decide upon.
This case comes as good news for employers as it means that they cannot be successfully pursued for unfair dismissal if the decision maker was unaware of a protected disclosure. However, they should still exercise caution as employees can still claim unlawful detriment as a way of seeking compensation from the employer.