Whistleblowing – a lack of awareness of this important issue could be very costly for companies says Sean McDonough, employment law and HR specialist at Mogers Drewett

Has your company taken the necessary steps to educate its directors and employees on how to handle whistleblowing claims? In the UK rights exist and have now been incorporated into employment legislation to protect workers from dismissal, victimisation or any other detriment that occurs as a result of them blowing the whistle on illegal practices in the workplace. Not only does the current legislation offer protection for workers should this situation arise, it also encourages workers to disclose this information through the appropriate channels.

Unlike other claims, workers do not require a minimum length of service to bring a whistleblowing claim, meaning that anyone involved in the company who is treated incorrectly as a result of them ‘blowing the whistle’ could be a potential claimant. This combined with the lack of financial cap for compensation in whistleblowing claims means that should this situation arise it could be dangerous for the company financially and could significantly damage its reputation, as claims of this nature are widely reported.

For a whistleblowing claim to be successful a worker must make a ‘qualifying protected disclosure’, which is the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure that the information being disclosed shows that one of the following has occurred, is in the process of occurring, or is likely to occur:

  • A criminal offence.
  • A failure to comply with a legal obligation.
  • A miscarriage of justice.
  • The endangering of an individual’s health and safety.
  • Environmental damage.
  • Concealment of information relating to any of the above.

Although there must be more than just unsubstantiated rumours, the worker does not have to prove that the facts or malpractice they are alleging are true as a reasonable belief that there is a wrongdoing within the company is sufficient. However, the worker does have to make the disclosure in good faith and in the correct manner to their employer or various other people as prescribed by law and the disclosure must be in the public interest.

In case a disclosure is made everyone from the day to day management of the company to the directors on the board of the company should be up to date on the correct processes that should be followed to ensure the company are not exposed to any unnecessary risks. Ensuring that you have policies in place and training on this issue will assist and provide you with some comfort that if a disclosure is made your workforce and the board know how they should deal with it.

For further information or advice on this subject please see www.md-solicitors.co.uk or call 01749 342 323

Mogers Drewett

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