Whistleblowing for Business

In the UK, employees are entitled to certain legal protections if they make a public interest disclosure with regards to the actions of their employer or a third party. This is more commonly known as ‘Whistleblowing’ or ‘Blowing the whistle’.

As an employer, it is important that you reassure your staff that they are able to make any such disclosure safely, and this is typically done by having a specific whistleblowing procedure in place.

An effective whistleblowing policy is key to ensuring a consistent and compliant approach to whistleblowing across the company. Employees and workers must be made aware that their jobs will not be at risk should they choose to blow the whistle, and that the law protects them from being treated unfairly in the workplace or being dismissed as a result of their actions.

At Analysis Legal we specialise in assisting employers with the legal side of their business, and we’re here to help you to establish an efficient whistleblowing policy. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any queries you might have, our team are always happy to help.

What is Whistleblowing?

The UK Whistleblowing Commission defines whistleblowing as, “The raising of a concern, within the workplace or externally, about a risk, danger, wrongdoing, or malpractice which affects others”. This is done by making a protected disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and its amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). The protected disclosure should show past, present, or future wrongdoing which falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • Endangering the health and safety of others.
  • Causing damage to the environment.
  • Failure to comply with legal obligations.
  • Criminal offences e.g. fraud/embezzlement.
  • Miscarriages of justice.
  • Covering up wrongdoing in any of the above scenarios.

Sometimes employees and workers might think they have blown the whistle, but do their actions actually constitute a protected disclosure? We work closely with businesses across a wide variety of industries, ensuring they are operating within the relevant employment legislation.

Why Should My Business Have a Whistleblowing Policy?

In the UK there is currently no legal requirement to have a whistleblowing policy in place. However, implementing a policy of this kind can have many advantages for your business, and if it does become a legal requirement in the future, you will already be compliant.

Some of the key reasons to implement a whistleblowing policy within your business include:

  • Allowing the identification of early warning signs of important issues within your business which need to be resolved.
  • Letting current and prospective employees and stakeholders know that your business is run in an ethical manner.
  • Enabling a clear pathway to be followed in the event of a complaint, allowing the issues to reach those who have the authority to address and resolve them.
  • Acting as a deterrent and reducing the likelihood of wrongdoing occurring in the first instance.
  • If you are unsure about how to establish a whistleblowing policy within your business, it is always advisable to speak to an Employment Law specialist.

What Should be included in a Whistleblowing Policy?

The specific contents of your whistleblowing policy will vary depending on the nature of your business and the industry within which you operate. We can help you tailor a policy to suit the exact needs of your business. However, as a minimum, a whistleblowing policy should include the following:

  • A clear definition of whistleblowing and the kind of act that qualifies.
  • How whistleblowing differs to a grievance.
  • How a protected disclosure can be made i.e. who the prescribed persons/bodies are.
  • What will happen after a disclosure has been made i.e. timescales for action.
  • How confidentiality is handled during the whistleblowing process.
  • What the procedure is for a worker who wishes to blow the whistle anonymously.
  • Clear communication that any victimisation of the whistleblower is unacceptable and will be dealt with in line with your disciplinary procedure.
  • Clear communication that the whistleblower does not have to provide evidence, just sufficient detail to enable the employer to follow up the complaint.
  • Provide contact details and resources for workers who wish to seek further information about whistleblowing and their protection under the law.

What Legal Protections Do Whistleblowers Have?

Whistleblowers are protected under the PIDA; however, it is stipulated that in order to qualify for protection, the disclosure must satisfy the following criteria:

  • The complaint must be a ‘qualifying disclosure’,
  • The complaint must be made ‘in the public interest’,
  • The complaint must be made to a prescribed person or body,
  • The employee must possess reasonable belief that the information they hold is true and that it concerns a matter within the prescribed person’s remit. They are not required to inform their employer first, but this is usually encouraged as a first step in workplaces that have an effective whistleblowing policy in place.

Protection for whistleblowers means that any employee or worker who makes a protected disclosure cannot be dismissed for that reason or suffer a detriment. Foe example, if an employee or worker loses their job as a result of blowing the whistle, this would constitute Automatic Unfair Dismissal or if they suffer a detriment, they can bring a claim under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. As an employer, it is vital that you have an appropriately worded whistleblowing policy in place and that you are adhering to it fully in order to minimise the risk of an Employment Tribunal claim by an employee who tries to claim they were unfairly dismissed or suffered a detriment.

For more information about Whistleblowing or to discuss an actual or potential Whistleblowing matter relating to your business, please contact us.