LLPs ponder implications of members’ status ruling

Ruling on whistle-blowers’ rights and member status has LLPs in a spin 

Employment lawyers branded it a “significant” decision, one that could potentially force the 64,000 LLPs in the UK to look again at their membership agreements and consider how members be classified under modern employment law.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that LLP partners who blow the whistle could enjoy the legal protections afforded to workers under the 1996 Employment Rights Act.

The ruling sets up the first major whistle-blowing claim against a City firm, with former Clyde & Co partner Krista Bates van Winkelhof adding it to her existing pregnancy, sex discrimination case against the firm. It could also mean that LLP members qualify for a new range of rights.

Weightmans partner Phil Allen says while the ruling is to be welcomed for paving the way for greater transparency in the workplace, while warning that it will also mean a period of uncertainty for LLPs.

“As they are to be defined as ‘workers’ LLP members may be entitled to receive paid annual leave or to be auto-enrolled in a pension scheme – a potential administrative nightmare,” he says.

Serle Court barrister John Machell QC, who led the team acting pro bono on behalf of intervener, Public Concern at Work, reckons it could pave the way for a flurry of cases from LLP members who question their status under employment legislation.

All but Clydes agree that the Supreme Court delivered a common sense decision, which will serve to protect whistle-blowers from retaliation.

Many in management will no doubt be consulting their employment law experts on what it means for partnerships going forward.