What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is a worker who brings a wrongdoing to the attention of their employer or a relevant organisation. Read on for more information on the type of complaints that count as whistleblowing and the protections that are afforded to workers who “blow the whistle”.
A worker who reports wrongdoing within an organisation is protected in certain circumstances under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The type of wrongdoing disclosed must be in the public interest, i.e. it must affect others, not necessarily the worker concerned.
What complaints count as whistleblowing?
Not every type of wrongdoing disclosed will afford the worker protection as a whistleblower. Generally, qualifying disclosures are disclosures of information where the worker reasonably believes 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
• The breach of a legal obligation
• A miscarriage of justice
• A danger to the health and safety of any individual
• Damage to the environment
• Deliberate attempt to conceal any of the above.
Personal grievances are not covered by whistleblowing law, unless the worker’s particular case is in the public interest.
How should workers make a disclosure?
To be a whistleblower, workers should make a disclosure to their employer in the first instance unless they feel unable to do so in which case the disclosure should be made to a prescribed person or body that deals with the issue they are raising. This will help to ensure that the worker’s employment rights are protected.
What protections are afforded to workers who whistleblow?
Workers should not suffer any detriment or be dismissed for having made a protected disclosure and being a whistleblower. Detriment might include being subjected to disciplinary action, being demoted or being selected for redundancy. An employee’s dismissal will be automatically ‘unfair’ if the reason for the dismissal was wholly or mainly because they had made a protected disclosure.
Workers who suffer a detriment or are dismissed may be able to claim compensation. However, if an employment tribunal thinks that the worker made the disclosure in bad faith, it has the power to reduce any compensation by up to 25%.
A confidentiality or ‘gagging’ clause in a settlement agreement is not valid if the worker is a whistleblower.
How can Lincs Law help?
If you have made a protected disclosure or intend to make a protected disclosure but are not sure if you are protected as a whistleblower, we would be happy to advise you. Equally if you have already made a protected disclosure and have suffered a detriment or have been dismissed we can advise you about any remedies you may have against your employer. Please contact us on 01522 440512 or 01522 440515 (direct dial) or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk.
Specialist Employment Solicitor
Lincs Law Employment Solicitors