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Whistleblowing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Whistleblowing and the law

In the world of employment, the status of a whistle-blower is important. Most businesses at least say that they are in favour of employees blowing the whistle, usually associated with various policies supporting an intention not to victimise those involved.

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Technically whistleblowing does not exist as a legal concept. The formal wording used is that of making a protected disclosure. That is a disclosure of information to your employer or a relevant body about the particular issues set out in The Employment Rights Act. For example, it might be a disclosure about criminality or breaches of health and safety. Commonly it will be about a person not complying with a duty to which they are subject, and that encompasses a broad range of meanings on a case-by-case basis.

When reference is made to disclosures to a particular body, that would include organisations which govern certain work areas. For example, for an employee had concerns about an employer polluting say a river, they could report it to their employer, or they might notify the Environment Agency. Similarly, concerns about health and safety could be reported to a safety officer or to the HSE.

It is important to ensure that a protected disclosure should not normally be only applicable to an individual. The essence of protection is applicable to disclosures made in the public interest, and by way of example, it would be relatively easy to show that pollution in a river is a matter relevant to the public interest. 

Being a whistle-blower does not create a legal case. A claim might only arise if because of being a whistle-blower you are subject to a detriment. It is important to note that this can include a detriment falling short of dismissal. That might include verbal abuse, exclusion from workplace issues, withdrawal of overtime, and any number of situations. The final detriment might be that a person believes that they have been subject to a detriment by being dismissed.

Usually any claim for “in-work” detriments or dismissal must be brought within 3 months of the detriment arising. It can be difficult to identify the time limit, especially when there are detriments arising leading through to dismissal. It is important to take prompt advice.

Whistleblowing claims can be pursued by workers who remain employed by the business, of course that might be awkward. Claims of unfair dismissal can also be brought if employment is ended, and if the reason for termination is whistleblowing then the dismissal can be automatically unfair. The Employment tribunal can award compensation and this can include for losses and injury to feelings.

All rights for whistle-blowers arise from day 1 of employment, but to stress the possible claim only arises if a whistle-blower is subject to a detriment. If in doubt take advice. Stephen Pinder has run several claims to Tribunal hearings and has recovered substantial compensation, including a claim for a care worker sacked after 6 weeks of employment because of raising a challenge to poor practice over handling cash. That client received £15000 compensation


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