Workers have the right to make ‘protected disclosures’ without being dismissed or subjected to a detriment. This is often known as ‘blowing the whistle.’ It is very important for employers and employees to handle these kind of disclosures carefully. An employer who does this without taking care can easily be portrayed as a troublemaker and acting in an irresponsible way (for example, going straight to the press) can lead to the loss of the protection. Employers need to be aware of what might be a ‘protected disclosure’ so that communications can be dealt with correctly.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- What is a protected disclosure?
A worker who has reason to believe that legal obligations are not being followed (eg: tax, health and safety or immigration laws) can raise these with their employer.
- How should the disclosures be made?
If you are professional, reporting obligations might be dealt with under your professions rules and regulations. Most employers have a handbook with a whistleblowing procedure. But there are no set rules as to how the disclosure should be made. But it is good practice to make disclosures:
- In writing
- Setting out the legal obligation
- Why it is in the public (not the employee’s) interest to address the issue
- Providing details behind the concerns (including any evidence such as emails)
- To an appropriate person such as a Human Resources Manager or Director
- Check the employer’s policy on whistle blowing
There should be a whistle blowing policy which will set out to whom you should raise your concerns in the first instance and the procedures for investigation and clarification.
- Going outside the employer
If an employee believes that they cannot raise the matter internally for good reason s/he can go to the relevant regulator (e.g. FCA) or a “prescribed person” (such as: HMRC, Health and Safety Executive and the Office of Fair Trading).
- The Press
Any kind of payment for an employee’s ‘story’ may well undermine the employee’s status as a ‘whistle blower’ and could even be seen as being made in bad faith.
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