What is whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing (also known as ‘making disclosure in the public interest’) is the act of bringing attention to someone’s misconduct. It is most common with regards to employment relationships where an employee blows the whistle on his or her employer without losing his or her employment rights. The aim of whistle blowing is to encourage people to react if they see malpractice in their workplace.
Who is protected?
To be protected as a whistle blower you need to:
- Be a worker;
- Believe that misconduct is happening, has happened in the past or will happen in the future;
- Reveal the right kind of information: make a ‘qualifying disclosure’ (explained below); and
- Reveal the information to the right person (‘protected disclosure’).
What is a qualifying disclosure?
The information must be in the public interest and have regard one of the following matters:
- A criminal offence;
- The miscarriage of justice;
- Breach of a legal obligation;
- Damage to the health or safety of an individual;
- Damage to the environment; or
- A deliberate attempt to cover any of the above.
What is a protected disclosure?
The information must be communicated in a certain way and to the right person. It has to be made:
- In good faith and without malice;
- With a reasonable belief of its truth; and
- With a reasonable belief of making the disclosure to the right person.
Who is the ‘right person’?
The disclosure should be made according to the employer’s disclosure procedure, generally to the employer. If an employee feels that he or she is unable to do so they should disclose the information to a person or body prescribed by the Secretary of State (the ‘prescribed person’) or a legal adviser.
If a worker blows the whistle to someone other than those listed above the disclosure will only be protected if:
- It is made in good faith;
- There is a reasonable belief that the information is true;
- A worker is not acting for personal benefit; and
- The whistleblower acts reasonably in the circumstances.
If there is an exceptional failure in the workplace (such as putting the workers’ lives at risk), a worker can blow the whistle publicly ignoring the usual procedure. The conditions that need to be fulfilled are as follows:
- The disclosure is made in good faith;
- The whistle blower reasonably believes that the information is true;
- They do not act for personal gain; and
- They act reasonably in the circumstances.
A worker who blows the whistle is protected from breach of his or her employment rights. As a consequence if they are dismissed or victimised for their act they can complain to the Employment Tribunal. The dismissal or selection for redundancy is automatically treated as unfair if it is solely based on the act of whistleblowing.
For further information about whistleblowing click here.