If you have disclosed damaging information about someone that is in the public interest, this is classed as whistleblowing. As a whistleblower, you are protected by the law from detrimental treatment and dismissal.
What is whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is the reporting of wrongdoing or malpractice that has happened, usually at your place of work. The incident must be something that is in the public interest, known as a qualifying and protected disclosure. The following are disclosures considered to be in the public interest:
- Criminal offence
- Breach of a legal obligation
- Miscarriage of justice
- Endangering someone’s health and safety
- Damage to the environment
- Deliberate concealment of any of the above.
The disclosure must be made in an acceptable manner, which means that it should be made to a specific person or body to qualify for protection.
It is preferable to report the issue to the employer first where possible, but if you do not feel able to approach your employer, then you should go to the relevant regulatory body, such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Financial Conduct Authority or the Care Quality Commission. It may occasionally be acceptable to speak to the press, but it is always advisable to seek legal advice before doing this.
While a disclosure made in England, Wales or Scotland does not have to be made in good faith, if it is made in bad faith then any award made for damages may be reduced by up to 25 per cent.
Who does whistleblowing apply to?
The whistleblowing rules protect workers, to include employees, trainees, agency workers, consultants and members of limited liability partnerships.
The person making the disclosure must have a reasonable belief that the disclosure is true. Acting on an unsubstantiated rumour is not enough to qualify for protection.
The disclosure cannot be just for self-interest, however if the disclosure concerns breaches of rights, such as employment rights, which would benefit the worker as well as others, it may qualify for protection. In deciding this, a court would look at the number of people affected, how and to what extent their interests are affected, the nature of the wrongdoing and who the wrongdoer is.
How to go about whistleblowing
It is important to follow the correct procedure when blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. Failure to do this could damage your case.
If you are able to report the matter to your employer, you should do this first, following company procedure. You should tell them if you do not want it known that it was you who raised the matter. Make sure that you keep a record of your conversations with them and if possible, put the issue in writing.
Be careful of the language you use. Do not accuse people outright of wrongdoing. Instead, say that you are concerned that the wrongdoing appears to have happened. You should then leave the matter to your employer to look into.
If your employer does not deal with the matter satisfactorily or you believe the wrongdoing is still happening, you should speak to someone more senior or to a prescribed person or body.
For a list of who you can go to, see the government’s guidance, Whistleblowing: list of prescribed people and bodies. You must reasonably believe that the body you approach is the one that deals with the area of concern that you are raising.
There are strict criteria when a disclosure is made to the press and any approach made to them must be reasonable in the circumstances and not made for personal gain. Generally speaking, it is not recommended to speak to the press or make the matter public as you are likely to lose your legal protection as a whistleblower. If you feel you have no option, you should seek legal advice before doing so.
At Springhouse Employment Solicitors we deal only with employment law meaning we have genuine expertise across the full range of employment issues.
If you are contemplating making a whistleblowing allegation or you have suffered detrimental treatment or dismissal because of a disclosure you have made we can advise you on your options and, where necessary, put together a robust case on your behalf.
To speak to one of our expert employment lawyers, ring us on 0330 124 7818 or freephone 0800 048 5888 or fill in our contact form. Our employment law solicitors are ready to give you clear, accurate advice.
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