Under the whistleblowing legislation, a worker cannot be subjected to bad treatment by an employer for blowing the whistle (making a protected disclosure). If a worker is subjected to detrimental treatment, the onus is on the employer to show it is not due to the whistleblowing.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has recently confirmed, in the case Ahmed v City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, that the correct legal test for assessing whether an employee has suffered detrimental treatment for whistleblowing is whether the disclosure had a “material influence” (i.e. more than a “trivial influence”) on the employer’s actions. In this case, a manager gave an unfavourable reference which influenced a decision not to appoint Ahmed (who had previously blown the whistle) in a redeployment exercise. Given the way in which the whistleblowing legislation works, it is always important for employers to ensure they have documented reasons for any potentially detrimental treatment, as this may be needed as evidence that workers’ whistleblowing did not influence the treatment they received.