Whistleblowing and Settlement Agreements

A long running dispute between a former partner Ms Bates Van Winkelhoff and law firm Clyde and Co LLP, ended when the parties settled their dispute. The parties entered into a settlement agreement and a confidentiality agreement, so the details of the settlement will remain confidential.

Ms Bates Van Winkelhoff was a partner at the law firm. She made a whistleblowing disclosure on the firm’s practice of giving bribes to secure work and favourable treatment in a foreign jurisdiction. She was dismissed soon after.

Having made the disclosure, Ms Bates an Winkelhoff brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal for sex discrimination and for having suffered a detriment as a result of making a public interest disclosure (i.e. blowing the whistle on wrong doing).

Due to her seniority as partner in the law firm the firm sought to defend the claim believing that partners in a law firm were neither employees nor workers thus did not receive whistle blowing protection. After a protracted legal battle the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ms Bates Van Winkelhoff allowing her to bring a claim and Clyde settled the dispute soon after.

Workers have the right not to be subjected to any detriment on the ground that they have made a "protected disclosure". There is no financial cap on compensation in whistleblowing claims, and no requirement for a minimum period of service.

In order to make blow the whistle, a worker or an employee must satisfy two requirements. Firstly, the disclosure must be a qualifying disclosure and it must be a protected disclosure.

In order to make a qualifying disclosure the worker must make a disclose of information; the information must relate to a relevant failure (i.e. criminal activity, breach of health and safety etc.); have a reasonable belief that the disclosure of information relates to the information and be in the public interest.

A protected disclosure requires the disclosure to be made to an appropriate person (a senior internal manager) or in certain cases an external government body (e.g. the Environment Agency) or even the press. It is no longer a requirement that the disclosure of information has to be made in good faith.

If you are unsure on how the whistleblowing regime impacts your rights as a worker or employee, please get in contact with a member of the team.

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