What Protection Do I Have as a Whistleblower?

Author:
Stephen Pinder
Partner, Employment Law Solicitor
Date:
19/11/2019

As a Whistleblower, you do have protection under the law. If you make a protected disclosure and you are subjected to any detriment because of the disclosure you made or you are dismissed then you may have a claim.

If you are treated detrimentally, you can make a discrimination claim whilst you are still in your job.

If you are dismissed because of your disclosure, your dismissal is automatically unfair and you can make a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

You are protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which amended the Employment Rights Act 1996. This protection applies if you are a worker or an employee.

For free initial legal advice on Whistleblowing get in touch with our Employment Law Solicitors.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is making a disclosure about wrongdoing that your employer is doing. Only certain types of the disclosure will give you protection as a Whistleblower. These relate to failures by your employer and they are:

  • Your employer is committing a criminal offence
  • Your employer has breached a legal obligation
  • They have caused a miscarriage of justice
  • They are causing a danger to someone’s health and safety
  • They are causing damage to the environment
  • They have deliberately covered up information about any of the failures listed here.

As a Whistleblower, you can make a disclosure about things that have happened outside of the UK if they relate to any of the failures above. 

In all cases, you must believe that the information you provide relates to one or more of the failures listed above. Even if after investigation your belief is wrong, if it was reasonable for you to have held that belief, then you will be protected as a Whistleblower.

Any disclosure you make has to be in the public interest. Disclosures which are personal such as bullying or harassment are not covered. This is because your disclosure is not in the public interest.  Although you can’t report these issues as a Whistleblower, it doesn’t mean you can’t take action. You can use your employer’s grievance procedures to raise these issues.

Important Protections For Whistleblowers

 As long as your disclosure falls under one of the headings above, you have protection under the law as a Whistleblower.

Detrimental Treatment

As part of your protection as a Whistleblower, if you made a protected disclosure and your employer treated detrimentally, you may have a claim for discrimination. You can make this claim whilst you are still employed.

In addition to your claim for discrimination, you can also make a claim for any injury to your feelings, which could include being ignored at work or for comments that people made to you or about you.

As well as making a claim against your employer, you can also make a claim against any individuals in the business who discriminated against you because of the protected disclosure you made. 

Your claim will be made from the date the detriment took place and not from the date you made the protected disclosure. This is important because you only have three months from this date to make a claim.

Because of these short timescales, it’s really important to get specialist legal advice from an Employment Law Solicitor to protect your right to claim. 

Dismissal

If you are dismissed or selected for redundancy because of a public interest disclosure either in part or completely, this is automatically unfair dismissal.

You can make a claim against your employer at an Employment Tribunal for Unfair Dismissal.

Time limits to make a claim are short. You only have three months from the date of your dismissal to make a claim. You should note that the time limit does not run from when you made your protected disclosure, but from when you are dismissed.

Because of the short timescales to make a claim, you should get advice from an experienced Employment Lawyer so you can protect your chance to make a claim.

You should note that if a claim goes to an Employment Tribunal and they think that you made the disclosure in bad faith, any compensation you’re awarded could be reduced by up to 25%.

Workers Are Protected as Whistleblowers

To get protection under the Whistleblowing laws, you need to be a worker. There is a legal difference between a worker and an employee.

A worker is someone who:

  • Has a contract or arrangement to do work or provide a service for a reward. Your contract doesn’t have to be written down
  • Receives either money or benefit in kind for their work or service
  • Has limited right to subcontract the work
  • Has to go to work even if they don’t want to
  • Has the right to work for the length of the contract or arrangement as agreed
  • Is not working for their own Limited Company where the ‘employer’ is actually their customer.

Workers usually have fewer rights than those of employees, but workers are protected by whistleblowing laws amongst others.

If you are an employee, you are automatically a worker.

Who Do I Make a Public Interest Disclosure To?

You have a few options here. You can make a disclosure to your employer. Before you make your disclosure, you may want to check if they have a Whistleblowing policy which will tell you which procedure you need to follow and should give you some insight into what you can expect. If they don’t have a Whistleblowing policy in place, this doesn’t mean that you can’t report your concerns.

If you don’t want to speak to your employer about your concerns, you can report the issue to a prescribed person or body. You can find a list of them on GOV.UK here.

When you blow the whistle to a prescribed person or body, you must make sure that you make your report to the right person or body.

You could also blow the whistle to your Solicitor, Lawyer or your MP.

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