Whistleblowing is a commonly misunderstood topic, but it is essential for employees and employers to understand what it is and how it is protected by the law.
Malpractice within the workplace is taken very seriously and so whistleblowing should not be ignored or discouraged by employers.
We often have queries on how whistleblowers are protected and how employers should react to a disclosure of information.
What is whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing is the act of disclosing information that reveals malpractice, illegal activities, or unethical behaviour within an organisation.
This could include fraud, corruption, health and safety violations, or any other act that is not in the public’s best interest. The individuals who disclose such information are known as whistleblowers.
Whistleblowers are protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which is an amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996.
The aim of PIDA is to protect workers who ‘blow the whistle’ about wrongdoing from any subsequent detriment or dismissal by their employer.
To be protected by PIDA, a disclosure must qualify as a ‘protected disclosure’.
This means that the whistleblower must reasonably believe that their disclosure is in the public interest and shows past, present, or likely future wrongdoing falling into one or more of six categories: criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, miscarriages of justice, endangering health and safety, environmental damage, or the deliberate covering up of wrongdoing in these categories.
If a worker makes a protected disclosure, they should not be dismissed or suffer any detrimental treatment as a result.
If they do, they may be able to take their case to an employment tribunal.
Why is whistleblowing protection important?
Whistleblowing protections serve to encourage individuals to come forward with information about malpractice without fear of reprisal.
This can help to uncover wrongdoing that may otherwise have gone undetected, leading to better accountability and governance within organisations.
It also helps to promote a culture of openness, where workers feel confident in raising concerns.
How should employers handle whistleblowing?
It’s crucial to create an environment where employees feel safe to raise their concerns.
Companies should have a clear whistleblowing policy in place, detailing how employees can make disclosures, how these will be handled, and affirming the company’s commitment to protecting whistleblowers.
Organisations can offer training to all staff about the importance of whistleblowing and their rights under the PIDA.
Managers should be trained on how to react appropriately if someone raises a concern, to ensure that whistleblowers are not victimised or subjected to detrimental treatment.
For more information on whistleblowing and the protection that is offered, get in touch with our expert employment team today.