“Whistleblowing” is a colloquial term for the disclosure of wrongdoing within an organisation. You are considered a whistleblower if you are a worker and you report certain types of wrongdoing (this will usually be something you’ve witnessed at work – though not always).
You are entitled to whistleblowing protection if you report certain types of wrongdoing within your workplace. You are entitled to protection if you are a worker, an employee, trainee, an agency worker or a member of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).
The disclosure of the wrongdoing must be made in the public interest, meaning that it must affect other people. As a whistleblower, you are protected by the law and you cannot be subjected to a detriment or be dismissed from your workplace due to “blowing the whistle”. If your employer selects you for redundancy, this is also automatically considered ‘unfair’ if it is fully or partly due to a qualifying disclosure of information.
Whistleblowing can take various forms and examples of qualifying disclosures of information can include reporting any of the following:
- A criminal offence;
- Danger to health and safety;
- The breach of a legal obligation;
- Non-compliance with the law (failure to comply with any legal obligation or regulatory requirement);
- Risk of, or actual, environmental damage;
- A miscarriage of justice; or
- The belief that somebody is covering up wrongdoing (eg. deliberate attempt to hide any of the above).
For the above to qualify as whistleblowing, you must reasonably believe that one or more of the above matters is either currently happening or is likely to take place in the future.
You must provide information and not merely make a statement or allegation in order for it to be qualifying.
However, the act of whistleblowing should not be misconstrued with personal grievances for example bullying, harassment and discrimination, as this is unlikely to be covered under whistleblowing law unless the case is considered in the public interest or it demonstrates a real danger to the workforce.
Workers who knowingly make false allegations are not only not protected by the law but are also likely to face disciplinary action from an employer.
A disclosure of wrongdoing should be made to your employer first. If this cannot be done, then you should contact a prescribed person or body. There is a list of prescribed persons and bodies here.
We would recommend following up any verbal protected disclosures in writing so that you have a paper trail of exactly what information has been provided as the difficulty in many cases is that they are only communicated verbally, over time individual forget the exact wording and it can be denied by the receiving party.
We recently represented one of our clients, Ms Linda Fairhall, who successfully challenged her employer’s decision to unfairly dismiss her. She was found to have made thirteen protected disclosures regarding concerns for patient safety due to increasing workloads and a decreasing workforce, due to many staff being off on stress leave. To see our blog we recently did on this and to read more on this case in relation to Whistleblowing, please click here.
If you are concerned or think you may have a whistleblowing case and don’t know what to do, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help!
If you are an employer and are concerned someone may have whistleblown, get in touch and we’ll be happy to advise you how to deal with it properly to minimise the risk of a claim and the consequential adverse publicity that can follow now that all employment tribunal judgements are published online.
Written by the Thrive Tribe.