Whistleblowing (Public Interest Disclosure)
What is whistleblowing?
When a worker reports suspected wrongdoing at work, also known as a qualifying disclosure made in the public interest, an employee acquires certain employment protection rights. The report no longer has to be made in good faith but the worker must genuinely believe both that the information is true and that they are informing the right person.
What does whistleblowing cover?
Qualifying disclosures are disclosures of information about alleged malpractice which are in the public interest. This includes criminal offences, a failure to comply with any legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, threats to health and safety of an individual, damage to the environment and a deliberate attempt to cover up any of the above.
Who is protected?
All workers are protected, including temporary agency staff, trainees not employed by an employer and some self-employed personnel.
Who should disclosure be made to?
In the first instance a worker should make a disclosure to an employer or the organisation they work for using any policy or procedure in place for that purpose in the staff handook. If the worker is unable to do this, or no action is taken by the employer in response, then disclosure should be made to a prescribed person (a list of specified official and governmental bodies).
What protection is acquired?
A worker is protected from any detriment as a result of making a protected disclosure provided the relevant criteria are met. This includes protection from unfair dismissal, but for employees only. An Employment Tribunal can also order reinstatement or compensation, which can be reduced by up to 25% if an employee has acted in bad faith.