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Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Protected Disclosures

Section 16: Worker subjected to detriment by co-worker or agent of employer

The effect of this section is to introduce a vicarious liability provision so that where a worker is subjected to a detriment by a co-worker done on the ground that the worker made a protected disclosure, and this detriment is done in the course of the co-worker’s employment with the employer, that detriment is a legal wrong and is actionable against both the employer and the co-worker.

The employer will only be liable for a detriment where it is done by a worker in the course of employment or by an agent of the employer with the employer’s authority. In this context, the term “agent” refers to someone who is appointed by the employer to perform duties on their behalf (such as a contractor).

Employers are able to rely on the defence in new paragraph (1D) of Article 70B of the ERO 1996 if they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the co-worker from subjecting the whistleblower to a detriment. If the defence applies the employer will not be liable for the actions of the co-worker.

Where a whistleblower is bullied or harassed by a co-worker but the employer can use the defence in paragraph (1D), the co-worker will still be liable and the worker could bring a claim against that co-worker.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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