What is whistleblowing?
By David Coward
The law provides protection for workers who report malpractices by their employers or third parties against victimisation or dismissal.
There are two levels of protection for whistleblowers. Firstly, an employee will be automatically unfairly dismissed if the reason or principal reason for the dismissal is that they have made a “protected disclosure”. Secondly, employees and workers are protected from being subjected to a detriment, e.g. demotion, on the ground that they have made a protected disclosure.
Whistleblowing claims have no financial cap on the compensation that can be awarded and no requirement for a minimum period of service.
Not every type of malpractice reporting constitutes whistleblowing. If the whistleblower is to have the benefit of legal protection, the information disclosed must relate to one of six types of relevant failure, including criminal offences, breach of a legal obligation, miscarriages of justice, danger to health and safety, and damage to the environment. The whistleblower must also have a reasonable belief that there has been a failure by the employer and that the disclosure is in the public interest (rather than being a matter that only affects the whistleblower).
In view of the substantial compensation that can be awarded by employment tribunals, employers are well advised to have their own whistleblowing policy and procedure to assist them in addressing a whistleblowing disclosure and minimising the risk of a substantial employment tribunal claim arising.