Do Whistleblowers Have Legal Protection?

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24 July 2020

Whistleblowing occurs when an employee discloses certain wrongdoing within an organisation because they believe it to be of public interest.

When this happens, whistleblower protection in the UK dictates that they must not be treated unfairly or lose their job because they ‘blew the whistle’.

For immediate guidance on whistleblower protection, you can contact the Health Assured team on 0844 891 0355. Alternatively, this piece explores the legal protection that whistleblowers have in the workplace.

 

Are Whistleblowers Protected by Law?

Yes, but the legal protection varies from country to country.

In Ireland for example, the Protected Disclosure Act protects employees in the private and public sector when they raise a concern about possible wrongdoing. The act protects current and former employees, agency workers, independent contractors, trainees and more.

In the UK, the Public Interest Disclosure Act protects whistleblowers, even if they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement. Similar to legislation in Ireland, it protects employees, trainees, agency workers and members of Limited Liability Partnerships.

 

What is Whistleblower Protection?

It’s the safeguard in place to ensure whistleblowers aren’t discriminated against for ‘blowing the whistle’. In the UK, whistleblower protection law was in the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998 and amended into the Employment Rights Act 1996.

So, what legal protection is provided to whistleblowers?

They’re protected against unfair treatment and dismissal because of the disclosure.

If they’re dismissed or unfairly treated because of their disclosure they can take you to an employment tribunal. If dismissed, the employee must raise any claim of unfair dismissal within three months after the end of their employment.

 

Does the Whistleblower Act Protect Identity?

When making a disclosure, the employee may request to be kept anonymous.

If they do, you should make every effort to protect their identity. However, you should also inform them that it might be harder to prove any unfair treatment or dismissal thereafter was as a result of their whistleblowing.

It’s worth noting, in most cases, if the member of staff reports their concern to the media, they’ll lose their whistleblowing law rights.

 

How to Protect a Whistleblower Employee?

It’s no surprise that whistleblowers often fear intimidation and retaliation as a result of their actions. It’s important to ensure that your employees are aware of your stance on the whistleblowing.

There are many reasons why whistleblowers should be protected. The first and most important is that it allows employees to feel confident to bring wrongdoings to your attention. Especially anything that can endanger the health & safety of your staff and lead to more expenses for the business.

This is best achieved with a clear whistleblowing policy. Although it’s not a legal requirement, it does help to create an open and transparent working environment where employees feel safe enough to speak up.

The policy should guarantee employees that there’ll be no repercussions for whistleblowing. It should also include the process staff members should follow to report wrongdoings.

As well as having this policy in place, you should also consider the following to ensure that staff feel safe enough to bring issues to your attention.

  • Company culture: If you haven’t created an open and supportive culture within your organisation then your employees aren’t likely to feel comfortable enough to report wrongdoing. It’s important to ensure that staff feel comfortable enough to approach management to discuss concerns without fear of reprisal.
  • Training and support: Offering training and mentoring programmes give your staff direct access to individuals at different levels of the organisation. This means they’re able to report problems to people other than their line manager.
  • Anonymous hotline: Some employees may feel more comfortable talking to people outside of the organisation. To accommodate this, you can consider implementing a third-party channel where your staff can report issues anonymously.

 

Expert Support

Health Assured offers 24/7 whistleblowing support for your employees. If you feel your business would benefit from this service, call us today on 0844 891 0359.

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