In this case an installation engineer was dismissed by a communications provider shortly after he made a protected disclosure to the company’s managing director. Following six months of employment, he refused to use equipment because he deemed it unsafe, as it had not been serviced in a few years. This issue was escalated to HR, consequently, he was dismissed an hour later without a fair disciplinary hearing
He pursued the matter at the WRC under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997-2015, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and the Industrial Relations Acts. Normally, under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997-2015 the employee must have one years’ continuous service. However, the one years’ service rule does not apply for a dismissal related to making a protected disclosure, as defined in the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
In addition, in the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, it allows for compensation of up to 5 years pay for penalisation for having made a protected disclosure, instead of the normal 2 years. The employer maintained the engineer was dismissed because of his aggressive and unreasonable pursuit of a pay increase on multiple occasions and due to the allegedly aggressive way he dealt with staff and his manager. The company acknowledged the engineer raised health and safety issues but noted that he did not follow the company procedure on whistleblowing from the company handbook and that he failed to bring his concerns to the attention of the MD.
In practice, employers must investigate any complaint/grievance raised by an employee. If the information disclosed is that which the employee reasonably believes shows a relevant wrongdoing, it may amount to a protected disclosure and should be treated as such.
WRC Adjudication Officer Decision
The WRC Adjudication Officer found the respondent’s evidence that the complainant was dismissed because of his attitude and behaviour to “lack credibility”, yet there was little direct evidence to support the allegations of inappropriate behaviour. He was awarded €20,000 in compensation.
Employers must take care when initiating disciplinary measures following an employee making a protected disclosure. An employee who has made a protected disclosure can claim penalisation if the employer initiates disciplinary proceedings against them or makes a management decision which is perceived by the employee to have negative implications for them. There must be no connection between a protected disclosure and a disciplinary process made by the employee. Any connection will be deemed penalisation of the employee for having made a protected disclosure and would be unlawful. Nevertheless, if an employee has made a protected disclosure, this does not suggest that the employee can is immune from any disciplinary action or other management decision.
If you have concerns about Protected Disclosures and would like further advice, please contact Emma at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at firstname.lastname@example.org