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Partners in a firm

Partners in a firm

The issue:

Case law has established that partners in limited liability partnerships (LLPs) can be workers for the purpose of whistleblowing protection, but the statute does not make this clear and should be amended.

The case of Bates van Winkelhof  found an individual cannot be a member of the LLP and employed by it, under any circumstances. However, in the same case, it was held that a partner in an LLP could be a “worker” for the purposes of entitlement to protection under whistleblowing legislation.

High profile cases:

Clyde & Co LLP v Bates van Winkelhof [2014] UKSC 32 (Protect intervening)

Facts: The claimant was a solicitor partner at a limited liability partnership. She disclosed what she believed to be money laundering by a local partner. She was dismissed.

Held: The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal to find that the claimant was clearly a worker under s230(3)(b) ERA 1996 (limb b worker) and therefore eligible to bring a claim. It held that an element of subordination will not always be required as evidence of worker status. The case left unresolved the question of whether partners in general partnerships can also be workers.

“This highly significant finding extends protection to many thousands of members of firms – often operating in the heavily regulated fields of law, accountancy and financial services – and is likely to have implications for the way members of LLPs respond if they become aware of malpractice at work. As the people most likely to become aware of wrongdoing within their firms, it is in everyone’s long-term interests for members of LLPs to speak out if they spot such wrongdoing.”

Joanna Blackburn, Partner, Mishcon de Reya (who represented Ms Bates van Winkelhof

Protect says

The law should be changed to reflect the Supreme Court’s judgment in Bates van Winkelhof that members of an LLP are ‘workers’ and protected under PIDA.

It should also be extended to include all partners, including those in general partnerships. Protect’s bill will ensure that the public interest in LLP and partnerships is upheld.

Whistleblowing affects us all. Protect’s campaign Let’s Fix UK Whistleblowing Law needs your support. Click the banner below to write to your local MP.