7 Common Questions About Whistleblowing
The Law Of…Being In The Know With Whistleblowing
A whistle blower is an employee who witnesses and then reports certain types of wrongdoing in the workplace. This wrongdoing usually constitutes some kind of illegal behaviour.
Joy Drummond, Employment Law Solicitor, answers your questions about whistleblowing.
What Whistleblowing Is Protected By Law?
To be able to claim legal protection from being treated badly because you raised wrongdoing the disadvantage you suffered needs to be due to the fact that you made what is known as a ‘protected disclosure’.
A ‘protected disclosure’ is of a particular kind of information (‘a qualifying disclosure’) and which is reported to the right person in the right way.
To be a ‘qualifying disclosure’ it must be one that:
- is of information, that is, of facts, not opinion, and
- you reasonably believe it is in the public interest for you to raise, that is, not, for example, purely a personal matter, and
- which shows one or more of the following:
- a criminal offence has, is, or is likely to be committed
- someone has, is, or is likely to fail to comply with a legal obligation
- someone's health or safety is, has been, or is likely to be at risk
- there is, has been, or is likely to be a miscarriage of justice
- the environment is, has been, or is likely to be damaged
- someone is covering up any of the above
Personal grievances are not covered under whistleblowing law. Problems such as harassment or discrimination at work should be reported using your employer’s grievance policy as a first step.
Some specific examples of whistleblowing could be:
- Witnessing someone cover up safety issues at work after someone has suffered an accident due to these same issues
- If you notice financial irregularities in the companies budget which no one in the relevant departments can account for
How Do I Report?
To be protected you must report it to the right person using the right method. If your employer has a procedure to report wrong doing you should use that. For example some employers have confidential telephone hotlines and most employers have a whistleblowing policies and procedures.
Who Do I Report My Whistleblowing To?
You would typically report to your employer, who should then explain the company's whistleblowing policy and what to expect – if you were not already familiar with it. Even if they do not have a policy you can still report to them.
If you reasonably believe the wrongdoing is by someone other than your employer you must report it to that other person. If your employer’s procedure covers reports to other persons you can use that.
If you do not wish to report to your employer, perhaps because your whistleblowing regards illegal activity which they are a part of, then you can consult a solicitor and the disclosures you make to the legal adviser are protected. Disclosures to your trade union representative are not protected but you can ask your union for advice about the employer’s whistle blower’s policy and reporting mechanism.
In special, particular, circumstances disclosures made to other bodies, for example some regulators, are protected. You should seek advice before making disclosures to anyone not covered by your employer’s whistleblowing procedure.
Who Is Protected?
If you have what is known as 'worker status' then as a whistleblower you are protected by law. Worker status includes employees and those contracted by a company to personally perform a service for pay for someone who is not a customer of the worker’s business.
Whistleblowing rights also apply to other people:
If you are unsure whether or not you are protected, call one of our Employment Law solicitors.
What If I'm Treated Unfairly After Whistleblowing?
If you are treated unfairly at work as a direct result of whistleblowing then you can take your case to an employment tribunal.
If you believe you were dismissed from work due to whistleblowing you must raise your claim within 3 months of your employment ending. Dismissal for whistleblowing is automatically unfair.
If you suffered other disadvantages due to whistleblowing you must claim within 3 months of the bad treatment.
There is no minimum period of service required to be able to bring a whistleblowing claim.
If you are considering claiming against your employer at tribunal, then it is vital you contact a solicitor immediately to discuss your options.
Can I Report Anonymously?
You can, but there are issues with this. If you do whistle blow anonymously and then feel as though you are being treated unfairly at work as a result, you may struggle to argue that the unfair treatment is due to your whistleblowing, should you decide to take the issue to an employment tribunal.
Will I Receive Compensation?
This hinges on what decision the employment tribunal reaches. If they decide that your employment was terminated unfairly due to making a protected disclosure, then you could eligible to claim a loss of earnings. Unlike a standard unfair dismissal claim, loss of earnings compensation in cases of whistleblowing is unlimited and uncapped.
Not only this, but the tribunal may also award you for an injury to feelings caused by the dismissal or being badly treated as a result of your whistleblowing. How much the award is worth is dependent on how serious the tribunal decides your treatment was and its impact on you.
Are You Considering Whistleblowing?
If you are, then it is important to consult a solicitor before proceeding. At Simpson Millar our Employment Law specialists have an excellent track record at tribunal. We can guide you through the process of whistleblowing, so you know what to expect and how best to proceed.
Contact us today using our freephone number or through our online enquiry form.