Qualifying Disclosures & Adverse Weather Policies

Norbrook Laboratories (GB) Ltd v Shaw

The case of Norbrook Laboratories (GB) Ltd v Shaw involved an employee who had concerns about driving in the harsh weather conditions of the winter of 2010. Mr Shaw was part of a sales team whose members had to drive to see clients. Mr Shaw e-mailed the health and safety manager to enquire whether there was a relevant policy and whether the Company had done a risk assessment on driving in the snow. He was told that the answer to both questions was no and so he e-mailed the manager again asking for formal guidance and expressing his concern that the driving conditions were dangerous. A few days later, he sent another e-mail to the HR department asking whether he and his colleagues would be paid if they could not get to appointments due to the adverse weather.

Mr Shaw was later dismissed. He did not have a year’s service (the qualifying period, at the time, to bring about an unfair dismissal claim) but he alleged that his e-mails counted as a “qualifying disclosure” and that he had been unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing. At a pre-hearing review, the Company submitted that Mr Shaw had merely been expressing an opinion and that he had been concerned about whether he would be paid if he was unable to travel, which would not count as a qualifying disclosure.

It was held that Mr Shaw had done more than just express an opinion; he had brought to the Company’s attention dangerous conditions which were putting the health of safety of him and his colleagues at risk. The Tribunal decided that the three e-mails together (although sent to two different people) did constitute a qualifying disclosure although each e-mail on its own may not have. The Company appealed but the decision was upheld.

The case highlights that qualifying disclosures can be made up of several different communications sent to different recipients. It also highlights the importance of having an adverse weather policy in place.