Whistleblowing, which is officially known as ‘making a disclosure in the public interest’, refers to those who witness malpractice or wrongdoing in the workplace and then report what they have seen to the appropriate person in charge. But are whistleblowers legally protected in the workplace in the UK?
Whistleblowers Are Legally Protected
Whistleblowers should not hold back from ‘blowing the whistle’ if they witness acts of wrongdoing at work. If you disclose illegal practices that you have seen taking place, you are legally protected from losing your job and you are also protected from being victimised by your employer for whistleblowing.
Why Whistleblowers Are Protected
Whistleblowers are protected from losing their job, being denied a promotion and from experiencing victimisation from their employer due to their actions. The reason for this is to encourage others to come forward if they witness malpractice or illegal practices taking place in the workplace, without fear of reprisal.
Protection is Offered Under Certain Circumstances
In order to qualify for protection as a whistleblower, you must meet certain criteria. You must be classed as a ‘worker’ ( this covers employees, agency workers, trainees and some self-employed people if they are supervised or work off-site), have full knowledge that malpractice has occurred, is currently occurring or will occur, in the future. The information you reveal must be of the right type, which classifies the disclosure as a ‘qualifying disclosure’ and made to the right person. In this way, the information will be handled as a ‘protected disclosure.’
Whistleblowers Must Make a ‘Qualified Disclosure’
Whistleblowers must make a ‘qualified disclosure.’ According to Directgov, this covers criminal offences, miscarriages of justice and threats made to an individual’s health or safety, failing to follow through with a legal obligation, damage done at work or an attempt to cover up any these acts. When you are making a qualified disclosure, you will be protected by law, provided you make it to the right person and in the right way. For example, the disclosure must be made in good faith and you must believe that the information you are disclosing is true.
When Whistleblowers Are Not Protected
Not all whistleblowers that make a disclosure are protected by law. For example, you will not be protected if you break the law at the time you are making the disclosure, or the information is protected under legal professional privilege. This would be in cases when someone confided in you seeking legal advice, and you disclosed the information.
Whistleblowers that witness wrongdoing at work should come forward and report what has taken place in the right way and to the right person. Workers who make qualified disclosures are protected by law in the UK from losing their job or facing victimisation from their employer.
Directgov, Protection of whistleblowers.