Increasing abuse of whistleblowing legislation by disgruntled City high-fliers has led to calls for employment tribunal procedures to be changed.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act, introduced in 1998, was designed to protect employees who raised workplace concerns about illegal or unsafe practices.
But a case last week highlighted how executives in the financial services sector are attempting to use the law to win big damages at tribunals, as awards in whistleblowing claims are uncapped.
Simon Hussey, a former bond salesman at City bank Nomura, claimed that his dismissal was due to “protected disclosures” he had made about financial wrongdoing at the Japanese bank. But the London tribunal rejected Hussey’s claim and found that Nomura was justified in dismissing him because of his poor performance.
Stephen Sidebottom, head of HR at Nomura, said executives were using the law “cynically” to extract more money from their former employers. “The growing use of [whistleblowing] legislation by white men as a litigation tactic, when in dispute with City employers, suggests the legislation is being abused,” he said.
He called on other City firms to follow Nomura’s example and take a stand by fighting these types of cases. Most companies tend to settle out of court to avoid a potentially damaging high-profile tribunal.
Guy Dehn, director of whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, called on the government to throw off “the blanket of secrecy” in tribunal claims, which encouraged abuse, and publish both the employee’s claim and the employer’s defence simultaneously on the internet.
“At scant cost, this simple step will discourage both unscrupulous employees and employers playing fast and loose with the system,” he said.
Dehn added that the government should introduce the changes in the Employment Simplification Bill, which employers hope will cut red tape and improve the dispute resolution system. Details of the Bill are expected to be revealed next month.
‘Inadequate’ Whitehall procedures