The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld an employment tribunal decision that an employee who raised concerns about compliance issues did not make a qualifying disclosure.
Parsons v Airplus International Limited, EAT
Ms Parsons was employed as a Legal and Compliance Officer by Airplus International Limited for just over a month. From the outset, she expressed fears about her personal liability if Airplus was found to be in breach of its legal obligations. She raised concerns that Airplus did not have a current consumer credit licence, although it was not clear that one was required. She also raised the fact that the company did not have a Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO), of which the company was already aware but did not consider one was required.
Complaints were made about Ms Parsons’ rude and disrespectful manner when raising concerns. There were issues with her performance and conduct, culminating in a decision to terminate her employment. She brought a claim alleging that she had been automatically unfairly dismissed as a result of making protected disclosures.
The claim was dismissed by an employment tribunal. It found that the matters Ms Parsons had raised were not qualifying disclosures and had been raised solely in her own self-interest. It was satisfied that the reason for her dismissal was for being ‘a cultural misfit.’ Ms Parsons appealed to the EAT.
The EAT has dismissed the appeal. A disclosure does not have to be made entirely in the public interest in order to qualify for protection; a self-interested disclosure may still qualify. However, the tribunal had found nothing to suggest that the disclosures in this case were made in anything but the claimant’s own interests.
The Court of Appeal in Nurmohamed v Chesterton confirmed last year that a disclosure made in a worker’s own self-interest may also be made in the public interest. This case demonstrates the limitation of that finding. The disclosure must be at least partly in the wider public interest in order to qualify as a protected disclosure.
There is likely to be a higher risk of an individual in a compliance role being perceived as a difficult colleague, and many of the concerns they raise may, in practice, be regarded as protected disclosures. For this reason, employers should take care to follow a fair process and be able to demonstrate that a decision to dismiss is not related to any such disclosures.