The long-awaited protection for whistleblowers in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 is set to come into force in spring or early summer, giving staff who raise concerns about malpractice at work protection from victimisation or dismissal. Anyone victimised for making a protected disclosure will be able to bring a claim for unlimited compensation to an employment tribunal. And gagging clauses in employment contracts will be void insofar as they conflict with the protection. Public Concern at Work, the charity which promoted the private member's bill that became the act, offers free advice on 0171-404 6609.
What duty does an employer have to give employees information that would benefit them financially? In 1991 the House of Lords held a Scottish health board liable for failing to point out to junior doctors that they could buy added years of pension entitlement before the right lapsed. Now the High Court has held that Nottingham University was not liable for failing to point out to a retiring employee that he could have had a bigger pension if he had retired one day later. The employer was not under a duty to flag this up when there was information in the pension scheme booklet which would have allowed the employee to work out how to maximise his pension, the judge said.
'Fishing expeditions' for documents by plaintiffs' lawyers in civil cases will get short shrift when new civil procedure rules come into force on 26 April. The new rules coincide with the 'big bang' reforms to simplify and streamline civil justice set in train by Lord Woolf, Master of the Rolls. The changes will usher in a new and more restrictive regime for disclosure of documents. An obligation to disclose documents will only arise if ordered by the court.