Whistleblowing is officially defined as “making a disclosure that is in the public interest”. It will usually occur when an employee discloses to a public body, usually the police or a regulatory commission that their employer is partaking in unlawful practices.
Whistleblowing is to be encouraged as it is an efficient and effective way of curbing unlawful practices. As a result there is significant legislation in place to protect whistleblowers.
Protection for whistleblowers
Under employment law in the UK if you blow the whistle on your company, boss, or anybody at your place of employment (disclose their illegal or unlawful practices to a public body) you will receive protection.
This protection includes the more obvious statutory law in relation to being unfairly dismissed, but also goes further to include provisions such as not being promoted on account of whistleblowing. If you have the courage to whistleblow, something which is clearly in the public interest, the law will stand by you to ensure you are not punished by your employer for doing this.
What types of disclosure amount to whistleblowing?
Obviously, in order to gain the protection afforded to whistleblowers your disclosure must actually be in the public interest as it would be of no benefit to anyone if every employee contacted a public authority the minute they were unhappy at work. Therefore, in order to be protected by the law you must:
- have made the disclosure in good faith – in other words you must be disclosing that information because it is in the public interest and is clearly wrong. It is not enough for you to have known about certain illegal practices for a long time, then have a blazing row with your boss and immediately contact the public authority out of spite
- reasonably believe that the information is substantially true – again it would be of little benefit to anybody if the disclosures you were to make to the public authority were not true. This would not only waste police time and cost your employer money but would also lead to many unhappy employees contacting public authorities simply because they were unhappy with their employer
- reasonably believe you are making the disclosure to the right prescribed person – this may vary depending on the circumstances; for example, if criminal activity is taking place by a junior member of staff, contacting their supervisor may well be sufficient. However, should this activity be carried out by your boss then contacting the police may be preferential. In either case, contacting a solicitor will be useful as they will be able to inform you who the prescribed person is in your set of circumstances
What qualifies as a disclosure for whistleblowing?
You cannot expect to receive legal protection, or expect your work to be deemed in the public interest if what you are disclosing is a trivial matter. Therefore, in order to amount to whistleblowing the disclosure must be in relation to serious activity such as miscarriages of justice, illegal activity, threats to individuals and/or damage to the environment.
Whistleblowing is in the public interest and the individual whistleblower is therefore afforded legal protection. If you require more information on this you should contact a local solicitor.