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Whistleblowing – what you need to know to protect yourself.

‘Whistleblowing’ is often the term referred to a scenario where an employee brings to the attention of its employer or any other organisation details of malpractice or wrongdoing. It is not necessary for you to have seen the wrongdoing or malpractice.

The disclosure must be made in the interest of the public.

The law provides protection to whistle-blowers provided that you are a worker. This can include for example part time staff, trainees and agency staff. An employer does not have the right to dismiss an employee because she/he has ‘blown the whistle’.

What counts as whistleblowing?

You will be protected by the law, provided that your disclosure relates to one of the following:

  • a criminal offence
  • health and safety issue that could cause harm to others
  • risk or damage to the environment
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • the company is breaking the law, e.g. not having the right insurance
  • you believe someone is covering up any wrong doing

This does not include raising a grievance or complaint with your employer.

Who do you complain to?

In the first instance, you need to raise the issue with your employer as per your organisations procedure. You can still raise the issue even if your employer does not have a specific whistle-blowing policy.

If you feel this is not possible, you can make the disclosure to a prescribed person or organisation.

You are able to anonymously make a disclosure. Where you provide your details to either your employer or a prescribed organisation, you can request confidentiality; which must be taken seriously. Every effort should be made to help protect your identity.

It should be noted that should you go to the media then your whistleblowing rights will be lost.

How does the law protect you as a whistle-blower?

You are protected from being treated unfairly by dismissal or harassment because of the disclosure made.

You would be entitled to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal should you find yourself dismissed or subject to unfair treatment/harassment following a disclosure.

A confidentiality order or a gagging clause is not valid if you are a whistle-blower.

If you are an employer, should you have a whistle-blowing policy?

All organisations are encouraged to have in place a whistle-blowing policy. This will ensure that there are set procedures in place that offer employees who whistle-blow sufficient protection from unfair treatment.

In addition having a policy in place will also help to ensure that employees feel comfortable enough to inform their employers first before contacting the appropriate regulator.

If you reported anonymously then this will be harder to prove that being treated unfairly was due to you whistleblowing.

For more information please contact Geoffrey Ellis on 01527 912912

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