You are protected from being picked on or dismissed by your employer for whistleblowing – reporting your concerns about their wrongdoing to someone in the business or a ‘prescribed body’.
The government has produced a long list of these organisations – such as HMRC, the Charity Commission, and the Care Quality Commission – these are organisations who are independent to your employers and have powers to investigate and act. You can find the list here.
It is formally known as ‘making a disclosure in the public interest’ though often referred to as ‘whistleblowing’. The protection appears in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. You will only get the protection from the Act if what you do is in the public interest.
What is a protected disclosure?
To qualify for protection under the law, you must have a reasonable belief that some wrongdoing has occurred, or is likely to occur. The wrongdoing needs to be either:
- A criminal offence
- A breach of legal obligation
- A miscarriage of justice
- A danger to the health and safety of an individual
- Damage to the environment
- Information relating to any of the above which has been or is likely to be deliberately concealed
Does the law protect everyone?
Yes, it doesn’t matter if you are an employee, worker, freelancer, agency staff, or a director.
How do I blow the whistle?
If your employer has a whistle-blowing policy, you should follow that process where possible. Failing that, someone senior in your organisation.
You should make the disclosure to your employer unless there is good reason not to. If you believe your employer will try to cover it up or treat you unfairly because you complained, or fail to address the issue after you have notified them, then you can make the disclosure to a prescribed body instead.
It is wise to always keep a written record of what you disclosed and to whom.
How does the law protect me?
If you blow the whistle, you have protection from being unfairly dismissed if you were fired for making a protected disclosure. There is no minimum qualifying period of employment needed, so you are protected from day one. There is also no limit on the size of an award a Tribunal can make if you win your case.
You will also have protection against being ‘victimised’ once you have made a disclosure. This includes being ignored, being subject to unreasonable scrutiny, demoted, or being set unreasonable targets. It also includes if you were selected for redundancy because of your actions. The onus is on your employer to prove that it was because of another reason, such as your performance or conduct.
There are important time limits in making a claim, which is usually 3 months (less one day) from the date your employer treated you badly – although if there is a continuing course of conduct by your employer, the time limit will only run from the last act complained of.
If your case goes to a Tribunal and it decides the disclosure you made was in bad faith – made with dishonest motives or for personal gain – then it will have the power to reduce your compensation.
What do I do now?
This is where we come in. Employment law is all we do.
It can often feel like your employer holds all the power. They will likely have experienced HR professionals or a solicitor working in the background. That’s why you need the best support and advice available. You need a specialist employment lawyer – one who will push for the best outcome for you.
We understand how it feels. We have helped hundreds of employees and because we act for businesses too, we know the tactics you’re likely to face from your employer. We know every trick in the book.
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