The Damian Green fiasco serves as a stark reminder to employers to tighten up their confidentiality and whistleblowing policies, legal experts have warned.
Linda Jones, partner at Pinsent Masons, said the arrests of shadow minister Damian Green and civil servant Christopher Galley for their alleged involvement in leaked information has highlighted that all employers should clarify the law relating to disclosure of information that their employees are subject to.
“Many employers do not have a serious policy on this sort of thing. The Damian Green case is a timely reminder to employers to make sure employees know about their confidentiality policies, and when it’s right [or not] to talk to the media. Employees should know about disciplinary action that can be used against them,” she said.
“There is also a call for HR to make sure employees are aware of whistleblowing policies – that unless staff follow the correct procedure, they may not be protected by law,” she added.
Jane Amphlett, partner at Addleshaw Goddard, said employers had a few options when dealing with employees that deliberately leaked confidential information.
“If the person making the leak is still employed, it is likely that disciplinary proceedings and possibly dismissal will follow, although for most employees they must consider if the leak is a qualifying public interest disclosure. A worker who blows the whistle may be protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 from any detriment or dismissal he suffers at the hands of his employer as a result of his whistle blowing.
“Before taking any action, therefore, the employer must consider the type of disclosure, how it was disclosed and to whom. A dismissal for whistleblowing can be expensive because there is no upper limit on the compensation that can awarded.”
Green was held and questioned for nine hours last Thursday on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office. He has since called for his home and offices to be thoroughly cleared of bugging devices he claims may have been planted.