Blowing the whistle on workplace wrongdoing

Blowing the whistle on workplace wrongdoing

If you are blowing the whistle on malpractice or wrongdoing in the workplace you should make the disclosure (reveal the information) to your employer or to a prescribed person so that your employment rights are protected.

Blowing the whistle to your employer

If you are blowing the whistle on malpractice in the workplace you should strongly consider making the disclosure to your employer. If you make a disclosure to your employer it will help to make sure that your concerns are dealt with quickly and by the right person.

If you work for a small company, the right person to resolve you concerns may be the director of the company.

You should check your employment contract to see if your company has a process to help you make the disclosure. In some situations your employer might adapt the procedure, for example to allow confidential disclosures.

Blowing the whistle to a prescribed person

If you feel unable to use your company’s disclosure procedure then there are other prescribed people you can make the disclosure to.

You can only make a disclosure to a prescribed person if you:

  • make the disclosure in good faith
  • reasonably believe the information you are disclosing is substantially true
  • reasonably believe you are disclosing the issue to the right person or body (eg health and safety issuesto the Health and Safety Executive orlocal authority)

Blowing the whistle to your legal advisor

While you are getting legal advice from a legal adviser you may disclose information about wrongdoing at your work which would be a protected disclosure.

Blowing the whistle to a government minister

If you are employed in the public sector you may disclose information about wrongdoing to a minister or member of the Scottish Executive provided you act in good faith.

Blowing the whistle to others

If you are making a disclosure to someone not listed above, then it will only be protected if you:

  • make the disclosure in good faith
  • reasonably believe that the information is substantially true
  • do not act for personal gain
  • act reasonably taking into account the circumstances

To make a protected disclosure to others you must either:

  • reasonably believe your employer would treat you unfairly if you made the disclosure to your employer or a prescribed person
  • reasonably believe that your disclosure to the employer would result in the destruction or concealment of information about the wrongdoing
  • have previously disclosed the same or very similar information to your employer or a prescribed person

An Employment Tribunal must also think it was reasonable for you to make the disclosure. The Employment Tribunal will take into account:

  • the identity of the person you made the disclosure to (eg, disclosing to a relevant professional body may be more likely to be considered reasonable than to the media)
  • the seriousness of the wrongdoing
  • whether the wrongdoing is continuing or likely to occur again
  • whether your disclosure breaches your employer’s duty of confidentiality (eg if information you made available contains confidential details about a client)
  • if you made a previous disclosure, whether you followed any internal procedures then, and your employers action that followed your previous disclosure

Blowing the whistle for exceptional failure

If you believe you are blowing the whistle on an exceptionally serious failure in a workplace you do not need to go through the normal channels and can publicly blow the whistle straight away.

It is not enough for something to be an exceptionally serious failure in your opinion alone (e.g. if you don’t agree with a working practice). It must be a matter of fact that something is a genuinely serious failure. An example could be an exceptionally serious health and safety risk that is putting workers lives at risk.

The conditions given for blowing the whistle to others will not apply, if you:

  • make the disclosure in good faith
  • reasonably believe that the information is substantially true
  • do not act for personal gain
  • act reasonably taking into account the circumstances

Where to get help

Making a public disclosure is a serious matter and if you are unsure, you should get professional advice before making a disclosure.

Public Concern at Work is an independent organisation that could give you free advice if you are not sure if you should raise a concern about workplace malpractice or how to raise your concern.

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