Whistleblowing at work – what to do and how to protect yourself

by Direct2Lawyers on August 17, 2012

  • Sumo

A recent article on Your Local Guardian highlights the unfair treatment that can be afforded to workers when they legitimately “blow the whistle” at work. Direct 2 Lawyers’ specialist solicitors deal with whistleblowing claims on a regular basis, providing free legal advice over the phone to workers who may have been the victim of unfair dismissal or discrimination because of whistleblowing. Detriment or dismissal because of whistleblowing is a common problem and workers often lack information on their rights. In this post we’ll therefore take a look at the following:

  1. What is “whistleblowing”?
  2. When can or should I blow the whistle?
  3. What happens if I’m dismissed from work because I’ve blown the whistle?

What is whistleblowing?

If you possess information which, in your reasonable belief, shows that your employer has (among other things) engaged in a criminal act or is endangering the health and safety of any individual then you may feel that you should disclose this to someone to highlight your employer’s indiscretion and (hopefully) redress the wrong. If you do bring this “wrong” to the attention of a qualified person (which we’ll look at later) then you may have made a protected disclosure and, if so, will qualify for protection from detriment or dismissal because you’ve done so. Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 employers are prohibited from dismissing a worker or subjecting them to a detriment because they’ve made a “protected disclosure”.

To make a “protected disclosure” a worker must be aware of information which, in your reasonable belief, shows that one of the following has been committed, is being committed, or is likely to be committed by your employer:

  1. A criminal offence
  2. A failure to comply with a legal obligation
  3. A miscarriage of justice
  4. The endangering of the health and safety of any individual
  5. Damage to the environment; or
  6. Information falling within one of the above has been concealed

You can’t disclose this information to just anyone – the information must be disclosed to a “qualified person”. Such persons include:

  1. Your employer or some other responsible person (such as a line manager)
  2. A lawyer; or
  3. A Minister of the Crown

The disclosure of the information must, further, be made in good faith and with the reasonable belief that the information is substantively true. In the above case Mrs Animashaun complained that her health and safety at work was being endangered by her work as there was a real risk of being hit by manoeuvring vehicles. She was eventually dismissed from her employment and she succeeded in demonstrating to the Employment Tribunal that her dismissal was a result of her whistleblowing.

When can or should I blow the whistle?

When you should blow the whistle is at your own discretion – it’s a matter of personal morality. However, you are only subject to the protection of the Employment Rights Act if:

  1. You are aware that one of the above acts has occurred (i.e. a criminal act or the endangerment of health and safety etc.); and
  2. You disclose this information to a qualified person (i.e. your line manager or a lawyer) in good faith; and
  3. You are subjected to a detriment (any more than trivial disadvantage) or dismissal as a result

What happens if I’m dismissed from work because I’ve blown the whistle?

If you’re dismissed from work because of whistleblowing then you may have a case of unfair dismissal (“automatic unfair dismissal”). When you’ve got a problem at work advice is the best recourse and you should therefore contact an expert employment law solicitor as soon as possible.

Direct 2 Lawyers’ specialist employment law solicitors offer free employment law advice for employees and free employment employment law advice for employers to workers. Call us today on 0845 544 1395.

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