Whistleblowing – a defamation complaint may amount to a protected disclosure
The EAT decides that as the complaint of defamation was made to clear the employee's name and not in the public interest, it was not a protected disclosure.
For a worker to be protected by whistleblowing law from suffering a detriment or being dismissed as a result of "blowing the whistle", they must have made a "qualifying disclosure". This is any disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the person making it, is made in the public interest and tends to show that one or more specified types of wrongdoing has taken place, is taking place or is likely to take place. This includes a failure to comply with any legal obligation.
Mr Ibrahim, who worked as an interpreter for patients at a private hospital, complained that rumours were circulating that he had been involved in a breach of patient confidentiality and asked a manager to investigate the matter. An investigation into Mr Ibrahim's complaint was rejected. He was later dismissed, and claimed (amongst other things) that his complaint was a whistleblowing allegation, and that he was dismissed for making that complaint.
The EAT said that Mr Ibrahim's complaint of damaging false rumours being spread about him was clearly an allegation that he was being defamed, and it did not matter he had not specifically called it a defamation complaint. The EAT ruled that whistleblowing law is wide enough to protect allegations of defamation. However, because the employment tribunal concluded that Mr Ibrahim was only concerned about his own personal position when he made this complaint, and was not able to show that he was acting in the public interest, his claim failed.