The Claimant had complained to his employer, Chesterton estate agents, that it was deliberately misstating its accounts, the effect of which was to lower his and some 100 or so other senior managers’ commission earnings. Following that disclosure, he was dismissed, which led him to bring a claim for automatically unfair dismissal under whistleblowing legislation.
Under current whistleblowing rules, a worker’s disclosure is only protected if they reasonably believe it is made in the public interest. The question this case raised is whether a whistleblowing disclosure can be said to be in the public interest if it concerns only the personal complaint of that worker and affects only a small and limited section of the employer’s workforce.
The Court of Appeal found that the disclosure about misstating the accounts was in the public interest because, although personal to the Claimant, the disclosure was of a deliberate wrongdoing and it allegedly took the form of misstatements in the accounts to the tune of £2-3million.
The Court observed that if the accounts had been statutory accounts, even of a private company, the disclosure of such a misstatement would unquestionably be in the public interest. The accounts were only internal accounts which made the position less black and white. Nevertheless, the Court observed that internal accounts fed into the statutory accounts and Chestertons was a very substantial and prominent business in the London property market.
The question of whether a disclosure is in the public interest depends on the character of the interest served by it rather than simply the number of people sharing it. The Court of Appeal gave useful guidance on factors to be taken into account in determining the public interest element, which include: the number of people affected, whether the subject of the disclosure is important or trivial, whether the wrongdoing was deliberate or inadvertent and the identity of the wrongdoer: the larger or more prominent the wrongdoer (in terms of the size of its relevant community, i.e. staff, suppliers and clients), then the more obviously a disclosure about its activities will engage the public interest.
Chesterton Global Ltd & Anor v Nurmohamed & Anor  EWCA Civ 979