A worker who 'blows the whistle' on wrongdoing in the workplace can claim unfair dismissal if he or she is dismissed for doing so. A worker's dismissal (or selection for redundancy) is automatically considered to be unfair if it is wholly or mainly on account of making a protected disclosure.
A whistleblowing bus driver who was dismissed after he reported a fault in his vehicle to a policeman has won the right to substantial compensation after the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that he was unfairly dismissed (Broecker v Metroline Travel Limited).
Mr Broecker began working for Metroline Travel Limited in 2010. He had signed a document called 'DriveSafe Check your Bus', which detailed the daily routine vehicle checks that he was obliged to carry out before taking his bus on the road and how any defects should be reported. These did not include checking the windscreen wipers.
On 8 May 2014, Mr Broecker reported a fault with his windscreen wipers before he left the bus garage. The engineer told him how to rectify the problem and sent him on his way. Later on, he was still concerned about the wipers. He mentioned the problem to a policeman, who told him the vehicle should not have been allowed out on the road. As a result, Mr Broecker was suspended for failing to follow the defect reporting procedure.
Following a fraught disciplinary process, during which he accused a manager of assault, Mr Broecker was given a final written warning for failing to follow correct defect reporting procedures and for using his mobile phone in his cab. Following further incidents, in which he complained that he had been required to drive a faulty vehicle, he was dismissed for misconduct.
In rejecting his claim against the bus company, an employment judge found that he had made a number of protected disclosures but that his dismissal was not unfair as Metroline would have been entitled to dismiss him for two incidents of poor driving.
In upholding Mr Broecker's challenge to that ruling, the EAT found that the judge had failed to ask himself whether whistleblowing was the principal reason for the dismissal. He had also misdirected himself in asking whether the dismissal was grossly or blatantly unfair. The four incidents which led to Mr Broecker's dismissal were inextricably linked and two of them were protected disclosures. In the circumstances, the only possible outcome was a finding that the dismissal was unfair.
The amount of Mr Broecker's compensation has yet to be assessed.