What is whistleblowing?

We have all heard the term whistleblowing whilst in the workplace. Many companies will even have a whistleblowing policy which states how a whistleblower is protected in the workplace and what to do if you need to report something. A whistleblower is a worker who has seen certain types of wrongdoing at work and has reported this to someone. 

Whistleblowing, however, needs to be broken down a little to fully understand what constitutes ‘blowing the whistle’ and when a report may not be deemed whistleblowing. Any reported wrongdoing must be in the public’s best interests. This means that the misconduct in question must be affecting others, whether that’s a fellow employee, the general public or clients of the business in question. 

A concern can and should be raised at any time. Whether you have seen something that morning, you are aware of something that happened in the past, or you are concerned about something that could happen in the future. Employees can report any concerns they have to an employer, but if they don’t feel comfortable doing this, a matter can be reported to a prescribed person. You can find a list of those such people through the government website. An employee may also – under certain circumstances – disclose information to a legal adviser like Catherine Herries-Smith.

How are whistleblowers protected in the workplace?

Once you have blown the whistle in your workplace, you need to know how you will be protected from any discrimination due to being a whistleblower. You should be protected from victimisation because of the following: 

  • You are a worker
  • You have revealed information in the form of a qualifying disclosure
  • You have revealed information to the right person in the right way – making it a protected disclosure
  • You are an agency worker, or you are in training for your role

So how do you become protected once you have made a disclosure? Unfortunately, being covered under the whistleblowing policy doesn’t start just because you have told your employer something in confidence. To qualify for protection, you must make a qualifying disclosure. 

What is a qualifying disclosure?

You need to believe that the disclosure you are making is in the public’s best interest and that the malpractice that is happening in your workplace has occurred or has a likelihood of happening. Disclosures that are made and characterised as personal will not be protected. 

What is a protected disclosure?

A protected disclosure is a qualifying disclosure that has been made to the right person in the right way. If this is done, you will be protected by the law. There are several types of malpractice that the law covers. These include: 

  • Criminal offences
  • Failing to comply with legal obligations
  • Miscarriages of justice
  • A threat to people’s health and safety
  • Damage to the environment

Once you have followed these steps and reported malpractice, you can expect to be protected by your employer. This includes you and your concern remaining anonymous – the person investigating cannot disclose any information that may identify you as a whistleblower. You should also not be discriminated against by your employer once you have disclosed it. This includes unfair treatment, sudden changes to or termination of your contract. 

Have you been discriminated against for whistleblowing?

Unfortunately, whistleblowing is still looked upon with worry and a lack of confidence. This may be because many employees who have blown the whistle are subsequently maltreated or forced out of their position because of their disclosure. A supportive whistleblowing policy in the workplace is essential to helping employees feel empowered to speak up about challenges that could lead to severe issues. A lack of a supportive policy or environment can leave employees feeling unmotivated and unable to speak up and will also leave the office with an unpleasant atmosphere. 

If you have reported a concern to your employer under the whistleblowing policy in your workplace, you are entitled to be protected, but you may not have been left feeling this way. Employees have been discriminated against after reporting malpractice, including the following: 

  • Being made to feel as though they need to leave their role 
  • Having their contract terminated for a sudden issue 
  • Not being protected and having their identity kept private 
  • Being mistreated by employers, including being spoken to unkindly or in a derogatory manner

Once you look at this list, it is easy to understand why employees don’t always feel comfortable reporting concerns within the workplace. If you are in this position or have been maltreated due to raising a concern, contact Catherine Herries-Smith today and discuss your employment concerns with our helpful team. 

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Catherine Herries-Smith is your local employment solicitor 

With over 25 years of employment law experience, including a law degree from London University, a University Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Legal Practice (Employment Law) and Diploma in Advocacy, we have supported hundreds of employees with their employment concerns. From whistleblowing discrimination to breaches of contracts, we are here to help both employers and employees with the challenges they face daily. 

If you are concerned about something happening in the workplace, want to find out your rights once you have whistleblown, or you think you have been maltreated, get in touch with us today and speak to a supportive solicitor who will help you resolve your workplace matters.