A whistleblower is a worker who brings information about wrongdoing to the attention of their employer or a relevant organisation, also known more formally as making a disclosure in the public interest. Workers are protected from dismissal or suffering a detriment for having made a protected disclosure.
What Qualifies As A Protected Disclosure?
Not every type of wrongdoing disclosed will afford you protection. Generally you must have a ‘reasonable belief’ that one or more of the following matters is taking place, has taken place, or is likely to take place in the future:
- A criminal offence
- A breach of legal obligation
- A miscarriage of justice
- A danger to the health and safety of any individual
- Damage to the environment
- A deliberate attempt to conceal any of the above.
It is not necessary for the wrongdoing to have actually occurred as long as you believe it to be true. Protected disclosures have a public interest element which means that personal grievances are not covered by whistleblowing law, unless your particular case is in the public interest.
There can be confusion about the distinction between disclosing ‘information’ on the one hand, and ‘making an allegation on the other. To qualify for protection, the statement or disclosure, must have sufficient factual content and specificity to be capable of tending to show one of the matters listed above. This could be from a combination of several statements taken together (for example a number of emails), even if one or more would not qualify. Unsubstantiated rumours, allegations and opinions are unlikely to be sufficient.
How Do I Make A Protected Disclosure?
You should make a disclosure to your employer in the first instance unless you feel unable to do so, for example if you believe your employer will cover it up. Otherwise you should make the disclosure to a ‘prescribed person’ who is independent to your employer and deals with the issue you are raising.
You should keep a written record as evidence of your disclosure and to whom it was made.
What Protections Do I Have?
You should not suffer any detriment or be dismissed for having made a protected disclosure. Your dismissal will be automatically unfair if the reason for your dismissal was wholly or mainly because you had made a protected disclosure. Examples of the types of detriment you might suffer include being subjected to disciplinary action, being put on a performance management process, being bullied or harassed, or being demoted or denied promotion. The dismissal or detriment must be more than just related to the disclosure. There must be a causative link between the protected disclosure and the reason for the unfair treatment.
Bringing An Employment Tribunal Claim
If you have made a qualifying disclosure, have followed the correct disclosure procedure and were dismissed or suffered a detriment as a result of making the disclosure, you may have a claim. There is no qualifying period of employment required in making a whistleblowing claim. You must however lodge your claim with ACAS under their early conciliation process within 3 months less one day from the date of the act you complain about, or the last in a series of acts if your employer has engaged in a continuing course of conduct.
If your claim is subsequently issued in the Employment Tribunal and your claim succeeds, you will be entitled to compensation. Note however that if the Tribunal thinks your disclosure was made in bad faith (for example, if the disclosure was not made with honest motives and/or where it was made for personal gain), the Tribunal have the power to reduce your compensation by up to 25%.
How Can Lincs Law Employment Solicitors Help?
If you would like specific advice on whistleblowing please contact one of our specialist employment law solicitors at LincsLaw on 01522 440512. If you would like more information about Employment Tribunal claims, please visit our website at https://lincslaw.co.uk/services/employees/employment-tribunal-claims/
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors