Note by Consultant Employment Law Barrister, Kevin Harris (March 2016)
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 gives protection to those who report wrongdoing at work; this is commonly known as ‘whistleblowing.’ The protection that Act gives is much more limited than people realise and if you do ‘blow the whistle’, you must carefully formulate it so that you gain protection.
At Simons Rodkin, we have helped people in a variety of sectors, including financial services, public sector organisation and private companies with their claims, from helping draft an initial letter setting out the complaint to representation at the tribunal.
The Act covers not just employees, but also company directors, agency workers, freelancers, though not the genuinely self-employed.
The act protects you from suffering a detriment, which can be anything from being dismissed, being disciplined, overlooked for promotion, not being sent on a training course, anything which you can demonstrate is objectively a disadvantage to you.
To be protected you do not need to show that wrongdoing has occurred, just that you had a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred. Wrongdoing falls into specific categories of criminal offences; failing to fulfil legal obligations; a miscarriage of justice; a danger to health and safety; damage to the environment; or a cover-up of one of the other categories. You must provide information to show that wrongdoing has occurred a bare allegation is not enough.
The disclosure must also be ‘in the public interest’ so if the disclosure relates only to a worker’s contract the act may not apply. It should also be made ‘in good faith’ otherwise your compensation may be affected.
Disclosure will usually have to be to your employer initially, or certain specific organisation, e.g. HSE if the matter relates to safety. You may not have protection if you disclose to the press or on social media in the first instances.
Although supposed to provide protection for all ‘whistleblowers’ the Act is so convoluted that it may not protect many people who genuinely believe that they have disclosed the public interest.
If you require advice or assistance at whatever stage of the process, you have reached, please contact us. There will be no charge for an initial telephone discussion.
Central London Office- 32 Bloomsbury Street, WC1, Telephone Number 0207 112 8841
Finchley North London Office, 212 Regents Park Road, Finchley, London N3 3HP
Telephone Number 0208 446 6223
Please ask for Lawrence Rodkin (Partner) or Kevin Harris (Consultant Barrister)