Here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we often receive calls from distressed clients who, after reporting wrongdoing at work, have unfortunately been dismissed from their employment. In such circumstances, our advice is always to try (as best as possible!) not to panic. This being as certain legal protections and Employment Tribunal claims may be available. Please read on to find out more.
Am I Whistleblower?
A “whistleblower” is the common term used for a worker who has made a protected disclosure to and/or about their employer or colleagues.
A protected disclosure has a very specific legal definition. Essentially, it is a disclosure of information which in your reasonable belief is made in the public interest and tends to show a particular type of wrongdoing (as below).
The information you disclose must fall into one of the following categories of wrongdoing:
- A criminal offence has been committed;
- A failure to comply with a legal obligation;
- A miscarriage of justice has occurred;
- The health and safety of any individual has been endangered;
- The environment has been damaged;
- Information relating to any of the above matters is being or has been concealed by the employer.
As above, importantly, your disclosure must, in your reasonable belief, be made in the public interest. You should also have made your disclosure in good faith and had a genuine belief in what you were disclosing.
What constitutes a protected disclosure will ultimately depend on your own personal circumstances and situation. However, by way of example, some recent cases I have advised on include:
- An employee reported to their manager that they had failed in their legal obligation to provide certain training.
- A medical professional reported that the health and safety of patients was endangered to their manager and regulatory body, due to a colleague’s actions.
- A factory worker reported to HR that certain hygiene protocols were not being followed in the production line (which supplied products to members of the public).
Again, what constitutes a protected disclosure is very much fact specific. If you consider you may have made a protected disclosure and would like advice on your legal protections, why not contact us for a free no obligation consultation. Simply use the contact form, engage in a web chat, email email@example.com or call us on 01522 440512 and we’ll be happy to help.
Can I Be Sacked For Whistleblowing At Work?
Here at Lincs Law Employment Solicitors, we often, unfortunately, receive calls from clients who feel they have been dismissed from their employment because of making a protected disclosure (as above).
In such circumstances, there are legal protections available in the form of an Automatic Unfair Dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal. This is pursued under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Unlike a claim of “ordinary” Unfair Dismissal, there is no minimum period of service to pursue this claim.
Essentially, if you can evidence that the reason, or principal reason, for your dismissal is that you made a protected disclosure, an Employment Tribunal will find you were unfairly dismissed.
Considering the above, there are three crucial elements that must be established for a claim of Automatic Unfair Dismissal:
- You made a protected disclosure (as above);
- You were dismissed from your employment;
- Causation i.e., the reason, or principal reason, for your dismissal was because of you making the protected disclosure(s).
It is, of course, highly unlikely that an employer will openly say the reason for a dismissal is because a worker has made a protected disclosure. Whilst this may be the underlying motive, there will usually be a different reason used as a “front”. Establishing causation between the protected disclosure and dismissal is therefore often a very difficult step in successfully pursuing a claim of Automatic Unfair Dismissal.
However, expanding on the above client stories further, I have advised on the following Automatic Unfair Dismissal claims:
- An employee reported to their manager that they failed in their legal obligation to provide certain training. They were then subjected to unfair capability proceedings, led by their manager, and later dismissed.
- A medical professional reported the health and safety of patients was endangered to their manager, due to a colleague’s actions. They then faced spurious and vague disciplinary allegations (concerning their colleague) and was later dismissed.
- A factory worker reported to HR that certain hygiene protocols were not being followed in the production line. Sometime later, the worker was placed “at risk” of redundancy. He was then placed in a pool of one (despite other colleagues working in the same role) and later dismissed allegedly by reason of redundancy.
I Have Been Unfairly Dismissed – Should I Appeal?
Whether you decide to appeal your dismissal is, of course, completely your decision. However, we would advise you submit an appeal. This is because:
a) If you do not appeal, your dismissal will remain on your personnel record and cannot be challenged (internally) months later. Think of your appeal as your last chance to challenge your employer’s decision, to put forward your case and potentially change the outcome. By submitting an appeal, your employer may consider your submissions and change the outcome.
b) Also, if you are considering pursuing a claim (such as a claim for Automatic Unfair Dismissal, as above) in the Employment Tribunal, an Employment Tribunal Judge will expect you to have exhausted all internal processes which would include appeals. They can reduce your compensation if you fail to do so.
c) It is also very important to try and strengthen any Employment Tribunal claim. Particularly, if you consider you have been dismissed because you made a protected disclosure, an appeal is your opportunity (if you have not already done so) to highlight such concerns to your employer.
Other Whistleblower Protections
The above deals with the situation where a worker has been dismissed from their employment because of making a protected disclosure.
Importantly, however, the Employment Rights Act 1996 also provides other legal protection. A “whistleblower” is also protected in circumstances where they are subjected to detrimental treatment because of making a protected disclosure. Essentially, this means any acts or omission that puts the worker at a disadvantage or a worse position.
Common examples of detriments include being:
- Excluded from activities;
- Denied promotion;
- Called names or harassed by colleagues;
- Subjected to unjustified disciplinary allegations;
- Targeted in a redundancy situation.
It is important to note the above includes treatment incurred up to but short of actual dismissal. Therefore, the act of dismissal cannot be treated as a detriment itself. The dismissal itself would need to be pursued as an Automatic Unfair Dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal, as above.
Beware Of Employment Tribunal Time Limits!
It is very important to be aware of the strict time limits in the Employment Tribunal.
You must start the Employment Tribunal process within three months (less one day) of your date of termination, or last act of detriment.
You start the Employment Tribunal process with something called ACAS Early Conciliation. For more information about this, please see here – https://lincslaw.co.uk/blog/acas-early-conciliation-what-is-it-all-about/
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Can Help You
If you are a whistleblower and would like some advice about your situation, we would be delighted to help. Please contact us for a free no obligation consultation. Simply use the contact form, engage in a web chat, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01522 440512 and we’ll be happy to help.
Specialist Employment Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors