What is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is when a worker reports certain types of wrongdoing – usually something they’ve seen at work and the wrongdoing they disclose is of public interest.
This means that it must affect others.
Examples of disclosures of information where a worker reasonably believes that one or more is happening, has already happened or is likely to happen in the future:
- A criminal offence, for example fraud
- Breach of a legal obligation i.e. the company is breaking the law
- Miscarriage of justice
- A danger to the health and safety of any individual
- Damage to the environment
- A deliberate attempt to conceal any of the above
Public Interest Disclosure
The un-sexy, proper term for ‘whistleblowing’ or ‘blowing the whistle’ is called protected disclosure and is found in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Ironically, the word whistleblowing isn’t mentioned at all in the nearly 10 page document but it’s the term most people are familiar with.
If workers bring a wrongdoing to the attention of their employer or relevant organisation such as OFCOM or the FCA for example (a full list of prescribed bodies can be found here), then they are protected in certain circumstances under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.
Whistleblowers are protected in two key ways from:
If an employee is dismissed because they made a protected disclosure, they will be able to bring an unfair dismissal claim. If all conditions of a protected disclosure have been met, then then employee will be considered as having been automatically unfairly dismissed.
Being subjected to a detriment
If an employee is treated in an unfair manner by their employer for example being denied training, blocking access to resources, an unrequested reassignment or relocation to name a few.
Whistleblowing is a ‘go to’ claim for individuals with a questionable employment status. You don’t actually have to be an employee to bring a whistleblowing claim and there’s no minimum length of service requirement. There is also no cap on compensation, which makes it a poplar claim for individuals to attempt to pursue.
A successful claimant could be very damaging to a business but on the bright side the Employment Tribunal deals with a small number of whistleblowing claims – in fact they don’t even report the statistics in their own category, whistleblowing claims fall under ‘other’.
Employers responsibilities in regards to whistleblowing
It’s good practice to create an open and transparent work environment where workers feel they can speak out. The law doesn’t require employers to have a whistleblowing policy in place but by having clear policies and procedures, businesses demonstrate they welcome information being brought to attention.
If a worker does make a whistleblowing claim, a whistleblowing policy and training will help you deal with the disclosure.
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