[UK] Whistleblowing Protections And Judicial Officeholders

In the case of Gilham v Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly ruled that excluding judges (and other office holders) from whistleblowing protection under the Employment Rights Act 1996 is a fundamental breach of their human rights.

The appellant (District Judge Gilham) was appointed a district judge by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thornton with effect from 6 February 2006.  Gilham sat at the Crewe County Court and in 2009 transferred to the Warrington County Court.  In 2010, the Cheshire courts were transferred to the Northern Circuit and major cost cutting reforms were announced. In 2011, the Runcorn County Court was closed and the business transferred to Warrington, as were some tribunal sittings. The appellant raised a number of concerns relating to the cuts, in particular about the lack of appropriate and secure court room accommodation, the severely increased workload placed upon the district judges, and administrative failures.  She raised these with the local leadership judges and senior managers in Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and eventually in a formal grievance.

She claimed that her complaints fell under the definition of “qualifying disclosures” under the 1996 Act.  The Ministry of Justice claimed that she was not a worker and not make such disclosures.  However, looking at other case law precedents, the judge ruled “I can reach no other conclusion than that the Employment Rights Act should be read and given effect so as to extend its whistle-blowing protection to the holders of judicial office~.

Global Payroll Association Comment

This is an important ruling for employers of office-holders.  Whilst they are not employees or workers in the true sense of the word (for tax and NICS), they are workers under employment law and entitled to the same whistleblowing protections.

We recommend that employers read this ruling and consider their contracts of engagement.