An employee does not need two years’ service to claim unfair dismissal if the reason for the dismissal is that he or she has made a public interest disclosure. One of the difficulties for employers is that an employee who makes disclosures of alleged wrongdoing may also be a difficult colleague to work with – and if he or she is dismissed it may be difficult for the Tribunal to decide whether the dismissal was prompted by the disclosure itself or by the way in which the employee has behaved.
In Parsons v Airplus International Ltd the employee was dismissed after just six weeks of work as a legal compliance officer. In the course of her employment she had raised a number of issues that she identified as being public interest disclosures concerned with the way in which the employer was operating its business. The Tribunal found, however, that the dismissal was nothing to do with the matters that the employee was raising, but was a result of her behaviour. She was found to be rude and confrontational in her approach; she made assumptions about the legal position without researching them properly; did not listen to others and was unable to make practical suggestions about what measures should be taken. Instead she was irrationally focussed on her own personal liability for any irregularities and her disclosures were aimed purely at protecting her own personal position.
The EAT upheld the Tribunal’s decision. The Tribunal had been entitled to find that the employer had properly distinguished between the making of the disclosures and the employee’s wider behaviour. The Tribunal had not made the mistake of assuming that because the employee was motivated by the desire to protect her own position that that meant that the disclosures were not made in the public interest. The Tribunal had instead found that the matters raised were not in the public interest because they were only concerned with protecting the employee’s own position. That was a conclusion the Tribunal had been entitled to reach.