The majority of whistleblowers are not represented by a lawyer and those without legal representation are ‘significantly’ less likely to be successful in their claim, new research has shown.

Analysis of 2,969 employment tribunal judgements between 2011-2013 by whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work (PCaW) shows only 44% claimants in whistleblowing cases had legal representation.

Despite employment tribunals being touted as a ‘litigant in person-friendly environment’, only 32% of those who represented themselves won their case, compared with 44% of those with legal representation.

One LiP described feeling ‘isolated and excluded’ by the language used by the employment judge and lawyers at the employment tribunal.

A lack of legal aid access and difficulty in finding reasonably priced legal advice in whistleblowing claims were cited as the primary reasons for the lack of representation.

The research shows a significant rise in the quantity of costs ordered, with claimants four times as likely to have costs awarded against them than respondents. Following the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013, claims under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 fell from 2,744 in 2012-13 to 2,212 in 2013-14.

Only 7% of whistleblowers were successful in interim relief hearings, which allow employees to continue to be paid by their employers until the claim has been determined.

PCaW chief executive Cathy James (pictured) said: ‘While the law is intended to level the playing field, this report shows the barriers to justice faced by whistleblowers when accessing the courts and demonstrates the “David and Goliath” battle often faced by whistleblower claimants.

‘Unable to access legal aid and faced with the financial burden of paying for advice, representation and court fees mean that many individuals are effectively being priced out of justice.’ 

PCaW called for legal aid cuts to be reversed in whistleblowing cases and for whistleblowing claims to be treated in the same way as discrimination cases.

The charity said there was an ‘urgent need’ to review the employment tribunal costs regime.