Whistleblowing Rights and Employee Protection

Employment Law

Whistleblowing is where an employee discloses wrongdoing which they have witnessed, know of or suspect within an organisation. 

The disclosure of the ‘wrongdoing’ must be made in the public interest, meaning that it must affect other people and not just be personal to the individual disclosing this. The disclosure must also qualify as a protected disclosure (see below).

Once you have made a protected disclosure you are protected under ‘whistleblowing law’, which in the UK is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 [“PIDA”]. This means that you cannot be subjected to any detriment as a result of making your disclosure.

Whistleblowers are protected to encourage workers to come forward and highlight wrongdoing or illegal behaviour in the workplace to ensure accountability. The law protects workers from being treated badly or dismissed by employers in retaliation for raising wrongdoing in the organisation. 

How do I disclose wrongdoings so I can be protected under ‘whistleblowing law’?

A disclosure of wrongdoing should be made to your employer in the first instance, in line with their internal policy which can usually be found in the Staff Handbook. If you cannot make your disclosure to your employer for whatever reason, then you should contact a prescribed person or body. There is a list of prescribed persons and bodies, as detailed by the UK government. 

You should follow 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 and over time individuals disclosing any wrongdoing may forget the exact wording used and then this can be denied by the employer.

Provide as much information as possible, simply making an allegation is unlikely to be sufficient. 

How am I protected?

England and Welsh law protect employees that blow the whistle in  both the private and public sector. The PIDA protects employees that have made a ‘qualifying disclosure’. 

‘Qualifying disclosures’ must relate to:                                                                                                   

  • Danger to an individual’s safety, health, or the environment;
  • Breaching a legal obligation;
  • A criminal offence;
  • Perversion of justice;
  • Attempting to cover up any of the above.

Whistleblowers must reasonably believe that one of the above failures has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur in the future. This belief need not be proven to be correct so long as it is honestly held by the individual. Disclosures that are not relating to the above list will not amount to a qualifying protected disclosure, including those stated in the Official Secrets Act 1989, complaints relating to a personal grievance or where a disclosure is not made in the public interest.

PIDA protection will only apply to those who have made the disclosure to the correct party: an employer, or another person reasonably believed to be mainly responsible for the failure, in the first instance

TIP – Employees should check internally whether their employer has a company whistleblower policy, before whistleblowing.

What are you protected from?

If you become a whistleblower you are protected, which means you should not be subject to a detriment as a result. A detriment can include; being dismissed, being denied training or a pay rise, or otherwise being bullied or ostracised. To bring a claim you must do so within 3 months from the date of the alleged detriment. This could mean bringing a claim when still employed if you are not dismissed.

If your employer dismisses you, this is also automatically considered ‘unfair’ if it is fully or partly due to a qualifying disclosure of information which means you can add a claim of automatic unfair dismissal to any whistleblowing complaint, regardless of your length of service.

 At a Tribunal, it will be considered whether the disclosure made was reasonable, including:

  • Whether it was made to the appropriate party;
  • The severity of the wrongdoing;
  • The actions that the employer took / might reasonably have taken;
  • Whether the company’s internal procedure was followed when making the disclosure; and
  • Whether the wrongdoing is likely to occur again.

If the disclosure is held to be reasonable and justified, those that have been unfairly dismissed will likely be ordered to be re-instated, re-employed, or awarded compensation.

How can Thrive help?

We have extensive experience assisting employees who have suffered a whistleblowing detriment. Read here for a case where we previously represented a nurse who won her whistleblowing claim against her NHS Trust.

Have you been subject to a detriment, having whistleblown? From tribunal claims to draft grievances and appeal letters, we know how daunting the legal process can be for employees and we are here to help. We will take your case from start to finish, ensuring you know exactly where you stand.

We can also support individuals by negotiating settlements agreements with your employer to get the best possible outcome for you. We provide these services whilst being as transparent as possible with you about the legal cost.

Before commencing work on your behalf, we shall do an initial review and then inform you of any additional costs and ensure you fully understand how your legal fees are calculated, in writing, before proceeding with any case.

Whilst most firms operate at an hourly rate, we prefer to offer our clients a fixed fee (wherever possible) to assist our clients in managing their legal costs.

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