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Whistleblowing and the principal reason for dismissal

Posted on 9th July 2009
Case law

An employment tribunal must take a holistic approach when deciding if an employee was dismissed for whistleblowing. It should not look at one event in isolation.

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the tribunal had wrongly concentrated on events close to the dismissal

El-Megris v Azad University (IR) in Oxford [2009]

Background

If the principal reason for an employee's dismissal is that he or she made a protected disclosure (under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) then the dismissal is automatically unfair.

In this case the EAT held that the employment tribunal had incorrectly focused on individual events leading up to dismissal. This caused it to reach the wrong conclusion that the claimant's dismissal was not caused by her whistleblowing complaints.

In practice

In cases where there is a difficult history between the claimant and the employer, the right approach for the tribunal to take is to decide if the difficult relationship results from the employee's whistleblowing or is independent of it.

In this case the EAT held that the dismissal arose from the claimant's whistleblowing and therefore she was automatically unfairly dismissed. The EAT said that the tribunal had wrongly concentrated on events close to the act of dismissal and failed to take a holistic approach, taking into account relevant historic events.

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