Whistleblowing for employees

Numbers of whistleblowing cases have increased and have been in the media recently. Our latest blog post reminds us of the protection for whistleblowers, discusses how to safeguard them in the workplace and discusses the  needed reforms.

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What is Whistleblowing?

In summary, ‘whistleblowing’ effectively means speaking up about wrong doing in the work place. For example: reporting breaches of laws, specific types of misconduct or unethical behaviour. You can report this to an external regulator. However, most companies will have a whistleblowing policy asking that you report your concerns internally first.  

In the UK, whistleblowers are safeguarded by the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 (PIDA). This law was crafted to foster transparency and openness in both public and private domains.

if you have made a ‘qualifying disclosure’ in the correct form you are protected from detrimental treatment.

Protected Acts

To be protected, disclosures must be classified as ‘protected acts.’ In essence, this signifies that the information being reported should relate to specific matters. These matters relate to the following:

  • criminal offenses;
  • violations of legal duties;
  • miscarriages of justice;
  • threats to individuals’ health and safety;
  • environmental harm and;
  • the intentional hiding of information related to these concerns.

Who is protected by law?

Whistleblowing legislation protection is to given to:

  • employees;
  • agency workers;
  • members of limited liability partnerships;
  • judicial office-holders; and
  • workers who are not employees. 

There is no minimum service requirement in order to bring a whistleblowing claim (protection is from day one). Significantly, there is no cap on the amount of compensation in whislteblowing claims. (unlike in standard unfair dismissal claims). 

To claim protection, whistleblowers must make disclosures to an appropriate party.

How to report whistleblowing

Report concerns in line with the company’s whistleblowing policy. You can still report your concern to your employer even if they do not have a whistleblowing policy.

If you want to raise concerns to external authorities before raising concerns internally, then please contact us for advice.

Safeguarding Whistleblowers

The law protects whistleblowers. If you blow the whistle and get dismissed, it’s considered automatic unfair dismissal.

Workers who are not employees (for example independent contractors) but are covered by the whistleblowing protections cannot make an unfair dismissal claim. However, they can claim to have suffered negative treatment (for example, by being bullied or excluded). 

Similarly, protected disclosures will protect employees from from unjust treatment or retaliation.

Does whistleblowing law need reform?

The whistleblowing charity, Protect, are among those pushing to change the whistleblowing law. They aim to ensure the country maintains its reputation for offering robust whistleblowing protection.

Some of the case law evidence suggests that many whistleblowers have faced poor treatment from their employer often ends up in the loss of their careers. For example, Alison McDermott, an equality consultant, saw her contract ended at Sellafield after raising concerns about toxic work culture.

Unfortunately, she did not succeed in her case. However, in April 2023, the BBC reported that an appeal judge agreed there were errors in her tribunal but not enough to warrant a new one. Nevertheless, the judge said the tribunal was”wrong to say” Ms McDermott was not a whistleblower.

Despite this, Alison McDermott has remained out of work and continues to fight for justice.

The Shocking Lucy Letby Case

The case has raised serious issues about whistleblowing in the NHS.  If we had a healthy “speak up” culture would this Would this scandal have ever happened?

 The health service ombudsman has said that the public investigation into Lucy Letby’s offenses should expand its scope to investigate the “cover-up culture” within the NHS about patient safety lapses.

Furthermore, the inquiry should delve into the reasons why numerous hospital executives ignore safety concerns and subject whistleblowers who bring them to light to victimisation.  Protect reports that so far this year, 40% of NHS whistleblowers who have sought legal advice have said that the trust ignores their concerns.

Dr Martyn Pitman was sacked after he aired concern about patient safety failings in its maternity service shows that whistleblowers are still being penalised for speaking out.

Where to get help

We are more than happy to assist you with further information and advice.

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