Bank worker ruling could open floodgates

Employers could face discrimination claims from staff who have left the organisation years earlier, following a ruling in the Court of Appeal that whistleblowing protection applies to ex-employees as well as current ones.

Diana Woodward, a former employee of banking giant Abbey, who had raised a number of concerns about investor funds, had been blocked from taking the company to tribunal as her claims related to the way she had been treated after she had resigned from the bank.

However, the Court of Appeal has ruled that her case should be heard by a tribunal after all.

The ruling brings employee rights under the Employment Rights Act into line with the existing rights relating to discrimination. This means claims could be brought if an employer refuses to provide a reference for an ex-employee who may have been a whistleblower, for example, said Stephen Hills, head of employment at law firm Halliwells.

“This could lead to employers facing claims from employees who have left their employment years earlier,” he said. “It would not even help that a compromise agreement has been signed at the expiry of their employment as this would not cover subsequent acts that give rise to a new claim.”

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