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The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 will come into force on 2nd July 1999, according to the draft statutory instruments just announced to parliament.
Three draft S.I.s have been laid, which are being published by HMSO on 18th June. They are the Commencement Order (number not yet announced), the Compensation Order (SI 1999/1548) and the Prescribed Persons Order (SI 1999/1549).
The Act renders it unlawful to subject any worker who makes a qualifying disclosure to a detriment.
If such a worker is dismissed, the dismissal is automatically unfair.
There is to be no limit on the compensatory award.
The worker is only protected if the disclosure is made to his/her employer (or a government minister if the worker is a civil servant), a legal adviser, any person nominated by the employer, or any suitable person if the worker believes that disclosure to the employer would result in the evidence being concealed or destroyed. This list is a paraphrase of the categories set out in the legislation.
The information disclosed must fall into one of six categories. These include the commission (or likely commission) of a criminal offence, a failure (or likely failure) to comply with a legal obligation and the endangering (or likely endangering) of an individual's health and safety.
There are fairly strict requirements on the worker: for example, he/she must act in good faith, not be acting for personal gain and reasonably believe the information to be true.
Any attempt to avoid the provisions of the Act (i.e. a 'gagging' clause in a contract) will be void.