Website Cookie Policy

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. If you continue, we’ll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website.
See our cookie policy for more information.

Practice Areas

More Information

Leeds: 0113 244 6100

Sheffield: 0114 267 5588


Send us an enquiry

Whistleblowing: when might a disclosure be in the public interest?

01 April 2016

When might a member of school staff be making a disclosure in the public interest and so be protected under employment legislation?

Staff who "blow the whistle" have special protections. If they are dismissed because they made the disclosure, this will be automatically unfair. They are also protected from suffering detriments because they blew the whistle (for example not being promoted or being refused training opportunities).

Under the legislation, a disclosure will only qualify for protection where the "whistleblower" has a reasonable belief that it was made in the public interest (the "public interest test") and that the information given tends to show (amongst other things) that someone has breached or is likely to breach a legal obligation, or that someone's health and safety is or likely to be endangered.

The "public interest test" was added to the legislation in 2013 to ensure that employees would not be protected when the disclosure concerned only a breach of the contract of employment by the employer. There is, however, no definition in the legislation of what is meant by the public interest.

To confuse matters, recent case law has suggested that a disclosure may reasonably be believed to be in the public interest when it concerns only a number of employees, as these employees are a sub-section of the "public". In one case, 100 senior managers were found to be a sufficient section of the public to meet the test. (The appeal in this case will be heard in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) this Autumn.) In another case, the EAT found that one charity employee's concerns about her cramped working conditions might be enough to meet the test.

A culture of openness and responsiveness is essential within the education sector, given its considerable safeguarding and compliance obligations and the weight of reputational risk. Schools should put in place a clear policy which sets out how a member of staff can blow the whistle and should ensure all staff are familiar with the correct procedure. It may be difficult to decide whether a complaint amounts to "whistleblowing" and those who may receive such disclosures should be trained in how to respond. The school or academy trust as a whole should ensure that disclosures are taken seriously and that appropriate action is taken following a thorough investigation.


If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Alacoque Marvin on 0113 244 6100.

You can keep up to date by following Wrigleys Education team on Twitter here or sign up for details of Wrigleys events here

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors





Alacoque Marvin View Biography

Alacoque Marvin


27 Feb 2024

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023: First phase of implementation

With the first phase of implementation anticipated on 4 March 2024, we consider the impact the new requirements may have on your organisation.

21 Feb 2024

Can a local authority charge a school or academy where it excludes a pupil?

We look here at local authorities charging schools and academies for permanent exclusions and whether this is allowed by relevant legislation.