Whistleblowing – in the interest of the public
Whistleblowing is defined as “making a disclosure that is in the public interest”. It usually occurs when an employee discloses to a public body such as the police or a regulatory organisation that their employer is engaging in unlawful practices.
The law regulating whistleblowing is wide and can be very complex depending on the circumstances of each individual case. Under the Public interest Disclosures Act 1998 (PIDA) a worker is provided a framework in which a worker can make a disclosure that is in the public interest and at the same time protects them from victimisation at the hands of their employer.
A worker will have to show three things to claim PIDA protection:
- That he or she made a disclosure
- That they followed the correct disclosure procedure
- That they were dismissed or suffered a detriment as a result of making the disclosure.
PIDA states that it is unlawful for an employee to be dismissed or be subject to any sort of detriment on the grounds that they have made a protected disclosure i.e. has passed on information which he reasonably believes that there is malpractice in the workplace or wrongdoing may occur. It is not necessary for the wrongdoing to actually occur so long as there is reasonable belief that the information shows that there is.
The disclosure must be information which is;
- A criminal offence
- A miscarriage of justice
- A Failure to comply with a legal obligation
or where there is;
- damage to the environment
- The health and safety of an individual is likely to be endangered
- Deliberate attempt to conceal any of the above.
As of 25 June 2013 the disclosures must be made with reasonable belief that it is in the public interest to do so, therefore limiting the circumstances relating to where breaches of the complainant’s own contract will amount to protected disclosures.
There are other conditions which must be satisfied In order for the disclosure to be protected. The general presumption is that the complaint must be raised with the employer, or any relevant agencies prescribed in the act, for example in a health and safety matter, the health and safety officer could be consulted. If any other person is approached, then the law sates that it must be reasonable along with other certain conditions which also need to be satisfied. One condition which does not necessarily need to be made is for the disclosure to be made in good faith in order for it to be protected. The tribunal though, may reduce the compensation by up to 25% if it establishes that the disclosure had not been made in good faith.
Although many employers have whistleblowing policies in place ( which no doubt should be followed) we recommend that you contact us to obtain the best legal advice possible before doing so, as a wrong move may hamper your chances of a successful claim.
If you have been dismissed or suffered a detriment as a result of whistleblowing, please contact our expert employment advisors who will be on hand to provide you with the best possible advise and guidance.