Whistleblowing

We have become involved more and more with cases arising from whistleblowing. The Tribunal hearings usually last several days. We therefore suggest serious consideration for all businesses both in terms of the impact of not dealing with the concerns raised, but also from a litigation & costs perspective.

What is it?

Whistleblowing (in this context) is where a worker (not just an employee) discloses suspected wrongdoing or dangers in the workplace, relating to:

  • breach of any legal or regulatory obligation
  • criminal offence(s)
  • damage to the environment
  • danger to the health and safety of any individual
  • miscarriage of justice
  • the deliberate concealing of information about any of the above

What counts?

If a worker raises a concern, it needs to meet certain rules before it counts as a whistleblowing protected disclosure. These include the worker:

  • actually disclosing the information (not just threatening to do so)
  • having a reasonable belief that the information shows one of the above
  • having a reasonable belief that the disclosure is in the public interest

Who they disclose it to is also important. Disclosures to a prescribed list of external individuals, for example, is likely to support the employee’s assertion it was a protected disclosure.

What claims do they have?

Unfair dismissal (automatic) – if they are dismissed because they made a protected disclosure it will be automatically unfair.

Unfair dismissal – if a Tribunal decides that the principal reason for dismissal was the protected disclosure, the dismissal will be unfair.

Unlawful detriments – this arises where an employer subjects the worker to certain treatment because they made a protected disclosure. It might include disciplinary action but can be subtler behaviours.

What do we do if an employee raises a concern?

Employers should investigate the concern, see if any steps need to be taken and try to maintain confidentiality (this also helps avoid detriment claims).

What next? How can we help you?

Whistleblowing procedures are another important policy for business to have. As with all important employment policies, training and a designated point of contact are important.

With whistleblowing putting a policy in place is not enough if the culture does not support raising concerns at the earliest opportunity. A helpline can be useful.

We can help support you by reviewing, updating or putting in place any Whistleblowing Policy. We can also provide ongoing employment advice and support from an employment solicitor if a situation arises. If you need us to attend your offices,we can do so. We meet clients around Surrey & London. More locally in Guildford, Godalming & Woking.

To provide some useful information, whilst online, we have employment law checklists available. You can also sign up for regular updates.

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Worried about raising a concern as an employee? See here for more information.