What is Whistleblowing at Work?

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Whistleblowing is where a worker passes on information about a wrongdoing at work.

Whistleblowing is where a worker passes on information concerning wrongdoing at work.  That notification is known as a “protected disclosure”, and it might relate to something such as financial misconduct, criminal conduct, risk or unlawful activities that affect others.

The whistleblowing legislation protects workers from detriment or dismissal because of making such protected disclosures, provided that you comply with the rules about where and how to raise concerns.

How do I raise a Whistleblowing concern?

If you’ve got a concern about something at work and want to tell someone, the first step is to look at your organisation’s whistleblowing policy.  If they don’t have one, then check out Protect’s website at www.protect-advice.org.uk or contact us for specific advice on your position and options. It’s important to ensure that you comply with the legislation, and with your organisation’s policy, or you may not be fully protected.

Generally, you’ll be expected to report your concerns to a specified manager within your organisation. Or it may depend on the nature of your concerns. Given the sort of concerns that fall within the whistleblowing regime, you may be worried that your report won’t be dealt with properly, or that it may be brushed under the carpet. However, if there is a whistleblowing policy – or a “speak up” or “raising concerns” policy – you’d expect to be able to rely on the person named as the whistleblowing contact to deal properly with reports.

You might first of all prefer to speak to someone informally about your concerns, but it’s unlikely that the organisation can do much about it without a written disclosure.  It’s best to put your concerns in writing, because this makes clear what, when, how and to whom you made disclosures, which will be really useful if you are later treated unfairly as a result and need to prove that the disclosures were “protected disclosures”.

What is the difference between Whistleblowing and a Grievance?

Blowing the whistle is different to raising a grievance about a situation at work. Specific legal provisions apply to whistleblowing and workers have protection against suffering a detriment or being dismissed. However, not all complaints can be raised via the whistleblowing regime, which is why it’s important to check your organisation’s policy and get advice if in doubt.

Broadly speaking, grievances are about things done to you individually, while whistleblowing is about things that have implications for the wider public – they may not impact on you at all. The Acas Code of Practice applies to all grievances, and you’re entitled to be accompanied to grievance meetings and can appeal a dissatisfactory decision.

You would have to disclose who you are to raise a grievance – this goes without saying, because your employer can’t attempt to resolve a grievance if they don’t know who’s raised it.

By contrast, you may not be called to a meeting to discuss your protected disclosures – the organisation might deal with your report without reference to you and if they discipline someone, you would not be entitled to find out about it due to confidentiality.  Even if you do attend a meeting, there is no right to be accompanied and there is no right to appeal against a decision (assuming you are told of the decision).

You could make anonymous disclosures under the whistleblowing regime – though this means you would be very unlikely to find out the result of an investigation and it’s much harder for the organisation to protect you from unfair treatment because you made protected disclosures. If you are concerned about wrongdoers finding out that you have blown the whistle, a procedure will usually provide for confidential disclosures, meaning that your identity is kept confidential to the person to whom you made disclosures. If you were then treated unfairly, it would be easier to trace the treatment back to your disclosures.

You can be sacked for whistleblowing but it must be deemed ‘fair’.

Can I be sacked for Whistleblowing?

Yes, in that employers can (as in, are able to) dismiss employees, or treat them poorly, whenever they want.  The question is whether the dismissal or treatment is fair, unfair, wrongful and/or discriminatory.

It’s unlawful to dismiss an employee or to subject a worker or employee to a “detriment” because they blew the whistle by making protected disclosures. So, you may have a claim if you are dismissed, or for instance, if you’re selected for redundancy, not given a promotion, given a poor appraisal, or put into a performance management procedure, because you made protected disclosures.  There has to be a clear link between the dismissal or unfair treatment and the disclosures you made.

Can you Whistleblow if you have less than 2 years’ service?

Any employee or worker is protected by the whistleblowing law if they make protected disclosures to the right person or body. There is no minimum service requirement to bring a claim.  The protection applies to “workers” as well as employees, which widens its scope to more individuals who provide services to an organisation, not just those employed under a contract of employment.

How much Compensation can I get for Whistleblowing?

This will depend on the nature and strength of your claim, as well as what you’ve lost as a result of blowing the whistle.  Factors like whether you were dismissed or were “only” disadvantaged in some way will be relevant, as will whether you’ve been able to find another job and your new rate of pay.

There is no limit on the amount of compensation that an Employment Tribunal can award for whistleblowing. Compensation can be awarded for financial loss, such as loss of earnings, and for injury to feelings, which is calculated on a scale based on how the treatment impacted you.  Injury to feelings awards range from £900 to £49.300 (as at April 2022). The potentially high compensation, especially for senior individuals or those on higher salaries, as well as the prospect of a public hearing, can help move the goalposts and persuade the employer to offer a higher settlement deal to avoid having to go through a lengthy Employment Tribunal claim.

If you reach a settlement deal regarding a whistleblowing claim, you’ll need legal advice on a settlement agreement. The rules around confidentiality in relation to whistleblowing are complicated.  An employer cannot prevent you reporting wrongdoing to the authorities, or make you repay settlement monies if you do so. That said, it’s usual to accept that there is a compromise to be made if a deal is to be done.  With whistleblowing cases, it can be hard to accept that you’re taking money in return for not pursuing matters further, especially when there’s a point of principle at stake, so it’s important to get advice on your options before committing.

Employment Law Solicitor

If you need more help with the subjects covered here then do reach out to our expert solicitors.  You can speak to our employment solicitors online via email employment@qlaw.co.uk or call us on 03300 020 863.

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