It is a question that probably crosses the minds or most workers at some point in their working lives. Say you are aware of your employer flouting health and safety regulations and putting your health, and those of your colleagues, at risk. What do you do? Do you blow the whistle or sit back and hope that things will improve?
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Unfortunately, highly publicised news stories in recent years, like the MP’s expenses scandal and the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal, highlight that malpractice and wrongdoing are very much present in places where we live and work.
To whistle blow and raise a concern regarding practices in the workplace could lead to an improved, safer, healthier working environment for everyone. Alternatively, it could turn into a nightmare of victimisation and bullying, and even disciplinary action against you by your employer. It can be a very stressful time.
The charity Public Concern At Work recently published a report detailing the concerns raised by people who contacted them for advice on Whistleblowing. They say that they have seen a 17% rise in people asking them advice in 2013 compared to 2012.
Worrying trends found in the report included:-
- People seeking advice on public safety concerns doubled between 2012 and 2013.
- 15% of the 1000 people they surveyed in 2013 said that they had been dismissed by their employer after they ‘blew the whistle’.
- PCAW contact people who ask them for advice 6-12 months later to check on the final outcome. Worryingly, over 75% of the workers who asked for advice in 2012 said that they had been victimised or dismissed by their employer, or they had resigned, as a result of their Whistleblowing. This was compared under 10% who experienced an improvement in working conditions and/or were thanked for raising their concerns.
For workers who are brave enough to raise a concern as to practices in their workplace, there is legislation in place to help protect them. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and Employment Rights Act 1996 protect workers who undertake ‘protected acts’ such as Whistleblowing.
It is common knowledge that workers can make Employment claims for Unfair Dismissal or Discrimination but it might not be as well known that workers can pursue an Employment claim if they suffer a ‘detriment’ from Whistleblowing, such as being demoted. Where the detriment and/or victimisation is severe enough to cause psychiatric injury or Stress at Work the worker can also seek compensation for this injury and any associated losses or treatment costs.
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